Boundless Compassion in Action

Spiritual Activism–Article Three

Putting faith into action is certainly exemplified by Homeboy Industries, founded by Father Gregory Boyle. Father Greg is the long term priest for the Dolores Mission in the gang center of the world, Los Angeles. Seeing a dire need for jobs to short-circuit the cycle of violence and prison sentences, Father Greg began putting gang members and ex-cons to work. As he relates in the excellent TATTOOS ON THE HEART: The Power of Boundless Compassion (see my review), having rival gang members work side-by-side often fostered a kinship that led to a life beyond the barrio.

“Homeboy Industries has been the tipping point to change the metaphors around gangs and how we deal with them in Los Angeles County. This organization has engaged the imagination of 120,000 gang members and helped them to envision an exit ramp off the “freeway” of violence, addiction and incarceration. And the country has taken notice. We have helped more than 40 other organizations replicate elements of our service delivery model, broadening further the understanding that community trumps gang — every time.”  – Father Greg

The Homeboy Bakery and the Home Girl Café produce wholesome food, while employing and training marginalized members of the community. Other businesses Homeboy Silk Screen and Embroidery, Solar Panel Installation Training and Certification, Homeboy Farmer’s Market, and Homeboy Merchandise. Services to the community include tattoo removal, job counseling, mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence counseling.

Visit HomeboyIndustries.Org for more information.

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Homeboy Industries and the philosophy of Father Greg is influencing communities around the world with the Power of Boundless Compassion. Click Here to see Video.

Read the Homeboy Stories at their blog

Order bakery goods now on-line at


What Elephants Want to Forget

Spiritual Activism–Part Two

elephantThis week the Los Angeles City Council voted to prepare an ordinance to outlaw the use of a bullhook on elephants. Are there a lot of pet elephants in LA? The City Council Chambers were crowded the night of vote with PETA members and animal activists. Lily Tomlin put her celebrity status into action on behalf of our pachyderm friends.

This is a move against circus practices of training elephants to perform across the country, including Ringling Bros. A video was played for the Council of elephants screaming and being hogtied in training sessions. After a few minutes, the video was cut short and the Council unanimously voted for the ban.

Huh, you mean those elephants don’t love the circus life? Don’t like riding train cars, living in cages, marching around in circles, and standing on top of each other? Seriously, I’d never considered the elephants’ feelings before that moment. What’s a circus without the elephants, right?

Then, I thought–what’s a plantation without the slaves? What’s a Gladiator Contest without a fight to the death and maybe a few Christians and lions thrown in for fun?

Elephants may not look much like people, but they are highly intelligent mammals, just like us. They live in family groups. They develop complex relationships, even with other species. And, yes, they can get damn mad and can go on a rampage, just like humans.

Would I find it entertaining to see a bunch of people herded into a tent with whips and forced into silly positions? No, definitely not. Would I care if they had been ripped away from their family and homes? Absolutely.

Suddenly the elephants in the circus seem more travesty than fun tradition. The Greatest Show on Earth? Not so much.

As we become more spiritually aware, cruelty once accepted as the “norm” becomes a call to action–even for the elephants. If  you don’t think elephants have feelings, watch this video.

Read article in the Los Angeles Times.

On the same page is an article about mentally ill inmates being subdued with canisters of pepper spray. After watching videos of naked, incoherent prisoners blasted with pepper spray, the state is re-evaluating their discipline methods. Crazy people don’t feel much, right? Dr. John Lindgren, California’s senior prison psychiatrist, was quoted as saying, “he believed psychotic prisoners would have no memory of the incidents and that they ‘have a higher than average threshold for pain or noxious stimuli.'”

Dr. Lindgren would probably make a good elephant trainer.

La Mama to the Prisoners Passes

First in a Series on Spiritual Activism–

Sister AntoniaSister Antonia Brenner passed away this week at the age of 86. She lived a life putting her convictions into action. A new wave of “Spiritual Activism” appears to be afoot. In the next few articles, I’ll be focusing on people putting their spirituality into action. Sister Antonia is a very good place to start.

After living a full life as a well-to-do California woman, mother to seven children, twice divorced, in 1977 she sold all of her possessions and moved into a cell in the La Mesa penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico, to serve the inmates. For over thirty years, Sister Antonia Brenner would counsel, feed, clothe and show Christ’s love to the lowest, meanest, and most forgotten. She brought light into the darkness.

Read her full life story in the Los Angeles Times. See a clip on YouTube about the documentary La Mama: An American Nun in a Mexican Prison

A life well lived–Sister Antonia Brenna, the angels are welcoming you home.