Father Boyle begins his book, Tattoos on the Heart, with a quote from William Blake which he writes has guided his 37 years as a Jesuit brother. “We are put on earth for a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.” This line speaks to the ministry that he has claimed for himself and the subsequent life that it has led him.
For the last 25 years he has been a priest in some capacity around the Dolores Mission Church, the poorest parish in the LA archdiocese. The church is between two housing projects. In the 1980’s it had the highest active gang activity in the entire city. He led mass at the funeral of his first gang member in 1988 and at the time of his writing this book, he has had this sad task 167 more times.
Through all these years, he has lived there, too. He walks the streets at night. He knows intimately the leadership and members of the different gangs, and the families behind them. His prescription for change has evolved. In the 90’s he worked to make peace between the gangs. Now he refuses to work with their leadership. He believes such efforts only legitimize their violence and destruction. Instead, he seeks to create an alternative life for former gang members.
He has done this through the creation of Homeboy Industries. Their motto is, Jobs not Jails. They run several businesses including a silk screening business, a café, graffiti removing business, and a tattoo removal business. These businesses employ former gang members and their families. Father Boyle writes that these people are virtually unemployable when they come. They joke among themselves about what a person needs to do to lose their job at Homeboy Industries. It is tough to get fired. The hope is that as they work there, they begin to heal through the grace and love they receive plus they learn skills to get better jobs and leave the neighborhood.
You can support this continued ministry of Father Boyle. All profits of this book will go to Homeboy Industries. Pastor Thadd has also chosen a number of their clothing items on display in the Fellowship Hall. If you would like to support Homeboy Industries and get something fun to wear, put in an order and we will send it in at the end of the month. It is a good cause.
In the weeks of July, we are going to two things with this book. We have chosen four themes to discuss from the book. They are God Is-Unmasking the love of God, Dis-Grace-the power of shame in keeping us from God, Jurisdiction-expanding our boundaries in the Kingdom of God, and Success-when a Christian can celebrate. On Sunday, we will preach a sermon about these topics using several stories from the readings. On Wednesday nights at 6:00 we will lead a class using scripture, stories and discussion to look even deeper at these good topics. This will be a good journey. I encourage all of you to join us.