“Tattoos on the Heart”

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Gregory Boyle

Another book for ‘Character Month’

Father Gregory Boyle is the LA priest who founded Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café.

Their motto: Nothing stops a bullet like a job.

Father Boyle—“G-dog” as he is known by his homies—acts in a way that is very much centered in his faith (Catholicism) as a Christian, but is also so unusual that his story makes a startling read. And here’s why: he believes that every individual has equal value in society. And unlike most of us, he doesn’t just say it. He truly believes it. For Father Greg, there are no throw-away people. He never stops caring—and so the subtitle of this book—The Power of Boundless Compassion—is apt. When I say that his compassion is amazing, I know that the word ‘amazing’ is so overused that you may not understand what I mean. But I think it is the right word—I’m filled with wonder at the life of this man.

Father Greg’s stories of gang bangers leaves us to wonder—Am I really a good person or have I just been sheltered from the things that would make me bad? When you read what many of the ‘homies’ in this book have gone through, you’ll wonder how they ever made it out to a normal, productive life. And you will wonder at the life of ‘G-dog’—who, in the twenty-five or so years that he has been working with LA gang members, has helped so many out of the gang life only to bury them later, when they are shot in drive-bys or targeted. Father Greg has buried almost 200 gang or former gang members. And yet, he keeps the faith.

Father Greg tells the reader that centering one’s life on love will get a person through the worst. Gangsters often tell him that they don’t want people to ‘mistake their kindness for weakness.’ But as Boyle shows, “sooner or later, we all discover that kindness is the only strength there is.”

Even with boundless love, a person needs a real sense of humor to find joy in this life, and Father Greg has it. Many of his anecdotes about dealing with young men and women are really funny. My favorite is when he writes about gangsters reading aloud and replacing words they don’t know with words they do. Thus in Bible passages referring to the ‘Gentiles,’ they use the word ‘genitals.’ Father Greg says this really livens up the public readings!

Yes, you will laugh—and you’ll cry, quite a bit. But do read this book. It will remind you that saints have a beginning as real human beings.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Biography/Memoir, Controversial Issue/Debate, Faith-Based/Religious Element, Non-fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Tattoos on the Heart”

  1. Ms. Waddle says:

    Great news! Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart, received the PEN USA Award for the 2011 best creative nonfiction for book, Tattoos on the Heart.

  2. Kathryn says:

    I’m going to look for this book at the library this morning. It sounds very good!

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