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Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

4.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,838 Ratings  ·  1,202 Reviews
Father Gregory Boyle’s sparkling parables about kinship and the sacredness of life are drawn from twenty years working with gangs in LA.

How do you fight despair and learn to meet the world with a loving heart? How do you overcome shame? Stay faithful in spite of failure? No matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative l
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Free Press (first published March 9th 2009)
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David Yes, there is a good bit of profanity but not particularly offensive. There is no way to sanitize this story if faithfully re-told.
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Oct 08, 2012 Shelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2012
This book makes me want to love better. PERIOD. I have never had such a clear picture of how God loves even me... especially me. Everyone should read this book and buy 10 copies to give away. All proceeds go to Homeboy Industries.
Jan 01, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every Christian
It is interesting to me that if you read about people who work with the most wounded of human beings, they tend to have a very expansive view of God and a very inclusive Christian theology.

Fr. Greg Boyle works with Latino gangs in the public housing projects of LA. (I could have said "gang-infested" projects but Fr. Boyle makes a point in the book about language which brings shame to "life and love challenged" kids- I mean what do you think of when you say something is "infested"?) Instead he
Jun 11, 2010 Herbie added it

I should mention, first, for the benefit of anyone who doesn't live in Los Angeles or follow closely the arena of gang prevention, that Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the most well-known gang prevention program in the gang capital of the US, Los Angeles. The organization's slogan is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job," and Father Boyle (or "G" as he is known) has made it his vocation to hire convicted felons straight out of jail and employ them in various Homeboy enterpr
Heather Jacks
Oct 14, 2013 Heather Jacks rated it it was amazing
I have always been a little left of center; deeply spiritual, not terribly religious; a modern day hunter and gatherer of theological principles and wisdom. I imagine something akin to a recycling center inside my head. Everything separated and compartmentalized, waiting to be processed and then smooshed into something new; something that I can use...that `fits' me. In this new creation bits and pieces of many great spiritual traditions are found and the unused portions are released, like mist i ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Robin rated it liked it
This book tells the story on Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in LA, and those of the "homies" that he serves. The organization helps gang members in LA find work, get their tattoos removed, and have a fresh start. I was inspired by how beautifully Fr. Boyle lives out his Christian faith. I think a lot of people could learn from his example of truly serving the poor and expressing love rather than judgment. However, as someone who is not a Christian some of his messages didn't ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
From My Blog...[return][return]Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle is a deeply moving, heartwarming series of essays from some of the most memorable times of Father Boyle’s career. Father Boyle has been a Jesuit Priest for 25 years working with many sections of the population that others deem frightening at best, including his work at his beloved Dolores Mission and the creation of Homeboy Industries (which is brilliant and what he refers to as a “tiny drop in a pretty big bucket” yet one we a ...more
May 13, 2011 David rated it really liked it
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 yo
May 27, 2013 Barbara rated it it was amazing
I heard Father Boyle interviewed on NPR a few months ago and was inspired by his work. He is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries in LA in 1988. Homeboy Industries helps former gang members redirect their lives and become contributing members of their families and community by offering training, job skills and much more.

Tattoos on the Heart is a collection of anecdotes of Father Boyle's work which are compassionate, inspirational, thought-provoking, funny, tragic and unforgettable. Hi
Jan 31, 2015 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I think I cried more listening to this book than any book - and that's saying a lot. I think I laughed more reading this book than most books I have read. Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries (whose motto is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job") in Los Angeles, has dedicated most of his life to working with gang members in the projects in L.A. He is my new hero. His life is dedicated to compassion and inclusion and joy, and his God touches my heart like no other ...more
Dec 16, 2010 Martha added it
I met Fr. Greg Boyle several years ago, and later began working as the psychotherapist in residence assisting people from immigrant communities to gang communities. Fr. G's life was previously written by another author, Celeste Fremon, who wrote about Fr. G but after many years, and after telling the many stories about his Homeboys and Homegirls at conferences and at universities, today, December 15, 2010, he spoke on the Dr. Phil show. Fr. Greg is a humble, holy, courageous and wonderfully comp ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Hunso rated it it was amazing
I read Tattoos on the Heart because the title caught my eye. Regina King, the star of Southland, was interviewed in O Magazine in the March issue, and was asked what was the best book she had read recently. She named this one.So I looked it up on Amazon and loaded it on my kindle. I was on vacation at the time and I read it in less than 2 days. I once read somewhere that compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use. Fr. G is what we are all called to be, humble, caring, loving, and able to ...more
Danielle Palmer
Sep 09, 2015 Danielle Palmer rated it it was amazing
This is not a book I would have chosen to read. My mom and I have a book club, and she chose this one, and I was dreading reading it. What a surprise I encountered, then, to find a book that is not preachy - but instead humorous, eye opening, and thought provoking. I laughed out loud more times reading this book on God and gangsters than I did reading any book that was classified as a comedy. This book made me grateful for the location and circumstances I have been born into, and hopefully less ...more
Robin Boggs
Dec 28, 2014 Robin Boggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best if not the best read I've had all year. A collection of stories of a truly compassionate man Father Greg Boyle who founded Homeboy Industries in LA and has dedicated his life to reforming gang members by first showing them love and compassion and showing them that they are valued and that God loves them and created them the way they are on purpose. Then providing them with jobs and counseling and even tattoo removal. The power of God's love has no bounds! As Mark J Torres , belov ...more
Webster Bull
Dec 06, 2011 Webster Bull rated it really liked it
I am enthralled. Tattoos on the Heart, by Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle, is a constant inspiration, from paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter. Buy it, read it, then read it again.

I downloaded the audiobook thanks to a tip from a friend, and I had heard it all in 48 hours, thanks to a round-trip Boston-New York solo car ride, complete with iPhone, app, and ear buds. The beauty of the audio version is that it is read by the author, over 30 years a Jesuit and founder of Homeboy Ind
Di Taylor
Jun 19, 2011 Di Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up as it is the freshman summer read for the university I'll be attending in the fall. While several books have gotten to the very core of me of recent, this book has by far affected me on a deeper level than the other books. Father Boyle is the heart of what Jesus asks us to do for our brother and sisters – the good and 'the bad.' The story is thought provoking, inspirational and helped restore my cynical attitude towards our current world climate. On a cynical level it is ea ...more
Jennifer Defoy
Jul 09, 2010 Jennifer Defoy rated it really liked it
The stories in this book were so touching. There were times I was crying and times I was laughing. Hope and compassion are really great words to use when talking about this book.

There were so many stories, and while they were all touching they were presented in a way that seemed a bit jumpy to me. If the stories had flowed better I would have been much happier with this one. But it was still pretty good as it is.

The language took a bit for me to get used to. Greg Boyle's language shocked me th
Aug 14, 2011 Brendan rated it really liked it
This is a profound work. It is a testimonial work about violence, gangs, and remediation in a broken community. And yet it returns the reader to fundamental questions of the existence of God, God's nature, and our response to inhumanity in our world. It does this by way of a narrative cataloging the events that have followed the creation of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. The author, a Jesuit who has spent the last three decades working with the former gang members and their families in some ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Judith rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing, inspirational, funny, sad, well-written book. Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries to assist the most violent gang-ridden section of Los Angeles. The style of the book is very casual, as if you are sitting at a party with an expert story teller, who never runs out of real life anecdotes. He is a preacher, but never seems to be preaching. In fact, it is the best spiritual book I have read in years and made me wish I was still a believer.

The author i
Tim Eby-mckenzie
Apr 27, 2011 Tim Eby-mckenzie rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the most powerful book I have read to date. I spent late night reflection time reading this book over a period of months, just soaking it in. I found myself unable to resist tears quite often, so moved by the compassion and wisdom reflected in the stories "G-dog" relates. The grace communicated so expansively through Father Greg's exposition of the "Narrow Gate" completely changed my perspective on Matthew's gospel. Before, I just hoped I might be able to squeeze in by the skin of ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully moving (and occasionally hilarious) account of 25 years of work with gang members in Los Angeles. The author is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, a program probably most famous for their motto Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job. But this isn't a "how to fix gang members" book. It's much more about living with and finding kinship with people that most of society prefers to either demonize or write off as unsalvageable or both. I highly recommend it. One of the be ...more
Amy Wright
Nov 23, 2015 Amy Wright rated it really liked it
Father Boyle presents a profound and basic understanding of God in the parallels between the Gospel and life in a gang ridden area. Although the majority of us do not live in an area full of gangs we can easily relate each of the concepts to our own lives. I laughed and cried throughout the book. His quote references that he used were spot on and so I say, "There but for the Grace of God, go I".
Jun 02, 2011 Katina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
"G," Father Boyle, is a perfect contrast to Greg Mortenstern. Instead of bragging and inflating the success stories of his amazing organization, "Homeboy Industries," he tells personal stories and shares spiritual insights into what it has meant to him to serve and, eventually work alongside, an impoverished and gang-dominated public housing community in Boyle Heights, L.A.

Boyle is a strong writer and I really couldn't put this book down. I will probably buy a copy so I can (shamelessly) dog ear
May 07, 2016 Kali rated it it was amazing
No daylight to separate us. Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despise
Jan 31, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing
Oct 09, 2015 Cathi rated it it was amazing
This book had a powerful effect on me, and that is putting it mildly. I hardly know what to say about it; it hit me that hard. Father Greg Boyle works with former gang members at Homeboy Industries, and he ministers to the roughest gangbangers in the most intense, violent, gang-riddled part of East L.A. This book is a compilation of anecdotes having to do with his experiences over the years. It's not written chronologically, but it's almost like a collection of sermons (albeit rough ones), and i ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Jen rated it really liked it
Every year, school districts plan some kind of district-wide pep rally to boost morale and start the year off right. In 2012, they invited the author and narrator of Tattoos on the Heart to speak at ours. It was easily the best one I’ve ever been to – lucky for me, since that was the year I waved goodbye to esteemed colleagues who I had known for about 17 years and Brent and I moved about 1,300 miles southeast from anyone we knew. This year, it seemed a good time to listen to the book as I’m get ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book about Christianity, Catholicism, and what it means to be a human being in our broken world. Fr. Boyle is a Jesuit priest who has, for decades, worked with gang members in Los Angeles. He writes with great tenderness and humanity about a group of people someone like me would cross the street to avoid. The thing is, the 'homies' really are bad dudes: they are violent, uneducated, drug dealers/uses, and completely self-destructive, but it is Fr. Boyle's passionate insistenc ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the all-school summer reading book for the school where I teach. It's a quick read—vivid, often humorous, full of interesting stories about the lives of LA gang members that Boyle, drawing on years of homilies that he has given, has turned into parables about God, suffering, and, as the title indicates, the power of boundless compassion. The book offers an interesting contrast to a couple other books I read this summer—Behind the Beautiful Forevers and On the Run: Fugitive Live in an Am ...more
Martha Davidson
Feb 08, 2016 Martha Davidson rated it it was amazing
What a moving book! Father Gregory Boyle's Tattoos on the Heart (2010) is a book that touches the heart but also makes us think about problems that face urban youth, especially gang violence and poverty. In much of the book, Fr. Boyle presents a collage of stories from his experiences with gang members in Los Angeles, most notably in his work as a Jesuit priest and also as Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, an organization that puts gang members to work and helps them with the ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Denny rated it it was amazing
_Tattoos on the Heart_ is one of the biggest little books I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading. In clear and simple prose and with a penetrating eye and nonjudgmental heart, Gregory Boyle tells the story, through a series of compassionate anecdotes and with a generous sprinkling of inspiring quotes from artists, writers, thinkers, and activists from across the religious, cultural, and political spectra, of how misunderstood and maligned minority citizens attempt to build meaningful lives in ...more
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Berkeley College ...: Tattoos on the Heart - Discussion Thread 2 10 20 Aug 17, 2015 08:47AM  
Berkeley College ...: Tattoos on the Heart - Discussion Thread 1 14 24 Aug 05, 2015 02:09PM  
Berkeley College ...: Summer 2015 Book Selection 34 37 Aug 05, 2015 08:33AM  
  • G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles
  • The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life
  • Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life
  • Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me about Meaningful Work and Service
  • Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion
  • The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
  • Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son
  • The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium
  • Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition
  • Theirs Is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America
  • Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace
  • Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality
  • Life and Holiness
  • Marriage and Other Acts of Charity
  • Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference
  • The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
  • The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace
As Executive Director of Homeboy Industries and an acknowledged expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle is an internationally renowned speaker. He has given commencement addresses at numerous universities, as well as spoken at conferences for teachers, social workers, criminal justice workers and others about the importance of adult attention, guidance and unconditional love in prev ...more
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“Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.” 87 likes
“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” 46 likes
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