Tattoos on the Heart Quotes


I spent the summers of 1984 and 1985 as an associate pastor at Dolores Mission Church, the poorest parish in the Los Angeles archdiocese.


The “I” here is the narrator of the book, Father Gregory Boyle. This is Boyle’s story and the opening lines of the “Introduction” effectively and quite efficiently state the setting in simple, unadorned language. Do not get used to that. Once the narrative gets into the meat of the matter, some sections of the book are dominated by far more metaphorical language and figurative imagery.

The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure. This longing of God’s to give us peace and assurance and a sense of well- being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with God’s limitless magnanimity.


A recurring theme throughout the text is the size of God. God is situated metaphorically as the marinade in which one should soak. Elsewhere are references to the concept of a “tiny God.” Boyle’s message is continually one of knowing the vastness of God’s part in the world and recognizing it and appreciating and, more to the point, fundamentally understanding the value such immensity can bring to the smallest details of one’s life.

“I give up, what do you think I should do with my money?”

Ray Stark

Stark is a Hollywood producer twice nominated for an Oscar for producing Funny Girl and The Goodbye Girl. Following the 1992 L.A. riots sparked by the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial, Boyle visits his friend who wants to do something in response to the gang violence. After shooting down a number of suggestions that only a rich white guy could possibly make relative to the subject of street gang life, he finally, in desperation, asks the question quoted above. And from that question sprang what is widely regarded as one of the most successful community responses to gang violence in any American city: the Homeboy Bakery.

They don’t know what a Gentile is but have a passing familiarity with “Genitals.” (Try this one yourself—go to the Acts of the Apostles and substitute “genitals” wherever you find “Gentiles.” It livens up this book as never before.)


Father Boyle is commenting on what he has termed “homie-propisms” which is when a homie or homegirl (to whom the book is dedicated) substitutes a word they know for one they don’t when reading from the Bible. The passage is a good indication of how Father Boyle’s memoir does not take either religion or his servicing of those in the city’s poorest parish overly serious and without humor. In fact, there is a great deal of humor as well as self-deprecatory treatment of religion along with the intensely emotional testaments to the sacred. Things even get a little profane at times.

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