Ricardo da Silva, S.J.December 30, 2020
Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, poses for a photo with trainees in this undated photoJesuit Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, poses for a photo with trainees in this undated photo. Located in downtown Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries provides hope and job training for formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women. (CNS photo/courtesy Homeboy Industries)

Editors’ note: What do Bishop Robert E. Barron, two well-known Jesuit priests and two leading religious sisters in the United States have in common this pandemic year? All five confessed to binge-watching “The Crown.” Although, in a series of interviews, by phone and email, America has learned that the similarities among these prominent members of the U.S. Catholic Church are not limited to watching British period dramas on Netflix. If nothing else, all five are agreed that 2020 has been quite the year for spiritual revelation and renewal. The interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

More in this series:
-What got Sister Helen Prejean through 2020
-What got Father James Martin through 2020
-What got Bishop Robert Barron through 2020
-What got Sister Simone Campbell through 2020

In a year sullied with revelations of gross racial injustices, Gregory Boyle, S.J., a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles which, he said, is “the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program on the planet,” shared with us the three books he just couldn’t put down in his quest to respond to the urgent calls for justice by people of color and their allies.

Could you name a phrase, quote, story, analogy or image that captures how you have experienced 2020?

The virus has asked us to grieve a bit. So you lean into grief and then it becomes savoring. After a while, it is transformed into what St. Ignatius calls “relishing.” Around the corner from that is joy.

For what are you most grateful as you look back over the year and why?

I am most moved by the courage of the homies’ and homegirls’ tenderness during this past year.

The virus has asked us to grieve a bit. So you lean into grief and then it becomes savoring.

What did you take for granted this year? What did this reveal to you about yourself and your presence in our world?

Radical acceptance means to be open to one’s identity being torpedoed. Who am I if I’m not celebrating the Eucharist in the many detention facilities in Los Angeles, speaking at a university or hotel ballroom or “cutting it up” with gang members in my office? It forces you to find, again, your true self in loving.

What prayer or spiritual practice sustained you this year?

Daily meditation and centering prayer. Resting in the stillness of love and loving in the stillness of God.

What new hobby did you take up during the most intense months of lockdown? Was there an old pastime you revived?

I don’t have hobbies. I read. I did Netflix. Plus, I continue to be in three book clubs: a Bible study (of sorts) with homies every week, “The Brothers Karamazov” group every other week (although we’ve moved on to shorter fiction), and a theological reflection group every other week.

What is the most important thing that the year of Covid-19 has taught you?

You surrender to what is. Covid taught me this. The Serenity Prayer helps.

Tell us the funniest thing that happened to you this year.

Every day, I would receive hilarious messages and memes from homies. “NOW can I take a shower or do I have to just keep washing my hands?” Also, lots of toilet paper memes.

You surrender to what is. Covid taught me this. The Serenity Prayer helps.

What did God teach you this pandemic year, or was there an old God lesson that you were reminded about?

The highest form of spiritual maturity is tenderness. It is the only thing that can scale the walls where folks are barricaded in shame and brokenness. The virus used muscles of tenderness that had atrophied in better times.

Where do you sense God’s presence and call to our world as we look to the new year?

God loves us without measure and without regret. God protects us from nothing, but sustains us in everything.

The virus used muscles of tenderness that had atrophied in better times.

Final words of wisdom on 2020 going on 2021?

I am both hopeful and optimistic (and I am never both) about 2021.

I buried many during these months who succumbed to the virus—including two double funerals— underscoring how disproportionately poor communities of color have been impacted by Covid-19. I have buried seven young people killed by gang violence, underscoring still the exacerbated lethal absence of hope in our community. I buried two young people who died of drug overdoses.

The book you couldn’t put down?

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson; How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahim X. Kendi; and Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon—all wonderful and helpful.

A series that you have binge-watched?

I binge-watched “The Crown” on Netflix and lots of documentaries.

More in this series:
-What got Sister Helen Prejean through 2020
-What got Father James Martin through 2020
-What got Bishop Robert Barron through 2020
-What got Sister Simone Campbell through 2020

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