On Sunday as I drove to church, I caught part of a great episode of “On Being” hosted by Krista Trippet with Father Gregory Boyle. It was so good in fact, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for a cocnut coffee and then parked outside my church and listened to the rest. So of course, I have to share it here. One of the parts that really stuck out for me was his mention of the Holy Eucharist, or Communion, as being a very tacit way to commune with each other. He said:
So what could be more sacred than seven orphans, enemies, rivals, sitting in a kitchen waiting for a turkey to be done? Jesus doesn’t lose any sleep that we will forget that the Eucharist is sacred. He is anxious that we might forget that it’s ordinary, that it’s a meal shared among friends. And that’s the incarnation, I think.
Here’s an excerpt of an article about the interview:
Several weeks ago, Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., buried his 183rd young person.
In 1988, he buried his first, an identical twin named Raphael. At Raphael’s funeral, his twin brother, Roberto, looked into the coffin, a living reflection of the body contained within. That picture of a young man staring into the coffin that held his brother, his mirror image, has stayed with Fr. Boyle: “That was my first introduction to the great loss and unspeakable grief of it.”
The “it” Boyle refers to is gang violence in streets of Los Angeles. Fr. Boyle is a Jesuit priest, former pastor of the Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles, and the founder of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program. He is the author of the book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.
Homeboy Industries seeks to improve and transform the lives of gang members by employing them at one of the Homeboy businesses, which include a bakery, café, a silkscreen and embroidery shop, and others. Homeboy Industries also provides support services including therapy, GED classes, and tattoo removal, Boyle said.
In the July 10th Interfaith Lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, the second of the series’ week three theme “Krista Tippett and Friends Who Inspire, Commit, Act,” Ms. Tippett sat down with Fr. Boyle in the Hall of Philosophy to discuss his life, work, inspirations, and relationships.
Boyle grew up in Los Angeles and was educated by Jesuits. In his time spent with the priests, he found them to be joyful and prophetic.
“The combination of the prophetic and the hilarious — I loved that,” Fr. Boyle said. “So I thought, ‘Boy, I want — I’ll have what they’re having.’”
Being a Jesuit priest is about being a companion of Jesus, he said. St. Ignatius said that Jesus is standing in the lowly place:
“Standing in the lowly place with the easily despised, and the readily left out, and with the demonized — so that the demonizing will stop — and with the disposable — so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. That gives me life, that’s where I want to be. I think that’s where Jesus insists on standing.”
After his ordination, Fr. Boyle spent some time working with the poor in Bolivia. When he returned to Los Angeles, he asked to be sent to the poorest place he could be sent. He was placed in the Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles. At the time, the area had eight different warring gangs and the highest gang activity levels in the world, Fr. Boyle said.
The work Homeboy Industries does can be categorized as service work, but it is important to understand the mutuality of the relationship between the former gang members or “homies,” who participate in the program, and Fr. Boyle. One of Fr. Boyle’s messages is the necessity of “delighting in people.” Delighting in people means moving past defined identities such as “service provider” and “service recipient” and reaching a kinship, Fr. Boyle said.
And here’s the interview itself. I highly recommend it.