Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Recommendation: "Tattoos on the Heart" by Gregory Boyle

The website caption for Fr. Greg Boyle's organization reads:  "Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education."   While apparently accurate, having read about his experiences first hand it seems like a bit of an understatement.

Tattoos on the Heart contains the insights received by Fr. Boyle through his work in the gang capital of LA. Powerful almost seems an understatement as you read through the stories of this priest's life work with those who are commonly called "gang-bangers", for whom he uses the more casual and respect term "homies".  This is just one of many ways Fr. Boyle reveals the humanity of people whom the news and popular culture tends to portray as thugs. It possesses much compassionate wisdom and a practical theology that can move anyone, whether they believe in God or not.

The book overflows with its central message -- that we are made for joy and we are loved.  Emphasizing the expansiveness and inclusiveness of God and the importance of standing with the marginalized and the outcast rather than merely standing for them (from a safe distance), this book is not short on inspiration nor education.  Each vignette about a particular homie can readily serve as the basis for contemplation, a la lectio divina.

While changes in public funding and the recession have caused a great hardship for Homeboy Industries, there is good news, including the fact that proceeds from this book go directly to that organization.  You can even donate through a virtual car wash at the HI website.  If God can be found in honestly seeing people for who they are, especially those who others fear and reject, then something of God will be communicated to you through this book.

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