Ignatian Discernment Found In Homeboy Industries

One of the important charisms that St. Igantius of Loyola brought through his spiritual insights is the notion of finding God in all  things.  In anticipation of the founder of the Society of Jesus’ feast day, the website Find Your Inner Iggy is s running a series of stories about finding God in unlikely places.

The text was written by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. who discerned his spiritual mission working with the poor and outcast in Los Angeles.  The language may be earthy but by keeping it real, it demonstrates the miracle of finding God in unlikely places.

Louie finished his 18-month training program with us at Homeboy Industries. A gang member and drug dealer, he was tattooed and had a long prison record.

“I was disguised as that guy,” he told me once.

He was now thriving in the new job we found him. He texted me one day: “My little fridge just died. Can you help me get a new one?” I text back: “Sears at 4:00.” He responds: “Got it. Beers at 4:00.” When I arrive at the Sears Appliance section, Louie spots me, gallops over, and gives me a bear hug. “Have they called security on your ass yet?’ “Nope,” he says, “but it’s just a matter of time.” We buy a small refrigerator on lay-away, and I drive him to his small, humble apartment.

Before he gets out, he says, “Can I tell you something, G?” He pauses. “Lately… I’ve been havin’ a lot a’ one-on-ones … you know… with God. And … the Dude shows up.”

I chuckle a little, but he is quite serious. He turns to me, “Now why would he do that?” His tears make a get-away, and he can barely speak. “I mean … after all the shit I’ve done … why would He do that?

While it is good that Louie is getting some one-on-ones with the Divine Dude, he missed out on a key insight which those who take the 30 day Ignatian silent retreat should learn.  Much like a spiritual drill sergeant, the Ignatian retreat breaks you down by reminding you of your own sin but in the end build you up by emphasizing that God loves our imperfect selves. But appreciating this unconditional love can tattoo the heart  and can draw us to build the kingdom of God. 
Fr. Boyle began Homeboy Industries in 1992 to help parolees and former gang members lead a better life by finding honest work.  Homeboy Industries does mental health counseling, education  tattoo removal,  and employment services. 

In 2011, Fr. Boyle wrote a book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (2011) in which the ghetto Jesuit distilled twenty years of his experience into faith filled parables centering on how we could live full lives if we could find the joy of loving others and in being loved unconditionally. 
It is amazing where we can find the divine if we only look lovingly.
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