Tattoos on the Heart

The Power of Boundless Compassion

Tattoos on the Heart

“Destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality” ( Los Angeles Times )—Tattoos on the Heart is a series of parables about kinship and redemption from pastor, activist, and renowned speaker, Father Gregory Boyle.

For twenty years, Father Gregory Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles—also known as the gang capital of the world. In Tattoos on the Heart, he has distilled his experience working in the ghetto into a breathtaking series of parables inspired by faith.

From giant, tattooed Cesar, shopping at JC Penney fresh out of prison, you learn how to feel worthy of God’s love. From ten-year-old Pipi you learn the importance of being known and acknowledged. From Lulu you come to understand the kind of patience necessary to rescue someone from the dark—as Father Boyle phrases it, we can only shine a flashlight on a light switch in a darkened room.

This is a motivating look at how to stay faithful in spite of failure, how to meet the world with a loving heart, and how to conquer shame with boundless, restorative love.
  • Free Press | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439171776 | 
  • March 2010
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Former Gang Members and Father Greg Boyle talk about TATTOOS ON THE HEART

Father Gregory Boyle’s sparkling parables about kinship and the sacredness of life are drawn from twenty years of working with gangs in LA.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Tattoos on the Heart includes discussion questions, and a Q&A with author Greg Boyle. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the

Topics & Questions for Discussion

• Rival gang members worked side by side in Greg’s firsthumanitarian business venture, Homeboy Bakery. How didthis unusual arrangement—enemies working together—play out? Can you think of ways this approach might workin a different context of conflict?

• Greg talks about offering opportunities, not to people whoneed help but to those who want it. What difference do youthink this makes?

• Elias Montes accepts an award on Greg’s behalf and saysto the audience, “Because Father Greg and HomeboyIndustries believed in me, I decided to believe in myself.“Greg himself writes, “Sometimes resilience arrives in themoment you discover your own unshakeable goodness.”For all their bravado, a lot of the gang members are deeplyvulnerable and insecure—how does Greg approach thiscontradiction?

• Greg writes, “Kinship [is] not serving the other, but beingone with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others’; he wasone with them.” How are the two different, and how doesGreg integrate this distinction into his work?

• How does life in a gang—which
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About the Author

Gregory Boyle
Photograph © Maury Phillios

Gregory Boyle

Father Gregory Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1982. He received his Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology and a Sacred Theology Masters degree from the Jesuit School of Theology. In 1988, Father Boyle began what would become Homeboy Industries, now located in downtown Los Angeles. Fr. Greg received the California Peace Prize, the “Humanitarian of the Year” Award from Bon Appétit; the Caring Institute’s 2007 Most Caring People Award; and received the 2008 Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.