I don't regret any of them, and I actually love them. Not surprisingly, though, I have the most emotional attachment still to the first one and the complicated, sometimes convoluted philosophy behind the symbol and what my poor, sorrow-addled heart felt at the time. I don't identify with the feelings anymore (thank God), but I can look back on it somewhat fondly in the way you can look back at a picture of yourself in Jr. High and know you look a little dorky but can always say "that was the style!"
People sometimes ask me what the Catholic church's philosophy on tattoos are, and I usually shrug and say "not a sin, but not recommended." The book of Leviticus advises against tattoos, and Orthodox Jews will not get tattooed. They are actually not even allowed to have them or they cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries. This rule is not enforced in Catholicism, and tattoos aren't really talked about all that much.
When I was taking my courses for my Religious Studies degree, I took a class called Religion and Society. We had to write a paper on something that bonded people in a similar way as a religion, but wasn't one. I chose tattoos. I walked around town and interviewed random people about their tattoos and what they meant to them. Almost everyone had a beautiful story behind their tattoos. Some were memorials to loved ones, some were names of their children or beloved pets, some were symbols they felt close to: of their familial heritage, their religion, their lives over the years. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirits and anyone who has ever been to St. Peter's in Rome can tell you that temples to God are always adorned with ornaments and reminders of why we are there. Sure, there are some awful tattoos out there-- some lame and ill-advised tribal suns, Playboy bunny symbols and bad art. But there are some really beautiful ones that people feel strongly about, and feel connected to. In a world where not everyone has a religion to fall back on, they bind people to the things they feel strongly about. There are Catholics that wear scapulars, Miraculous Medals, crucifixes, saints of every shape and size around their neck day in and day out. It's an outward sign of who we are, where we come from, and hopefully where we're going. What do people without these comforts have? Tattoos: four-leaf clovers, roses for their mom, rosaries around their ankle. Religious people can have a myriad of respectful, beautiful tattoos that can bring glory to our beliefs and history. Anyone who has tattoos will eventually be asked about them and so they could even be used as an evangelization tool.
|St. Padre Pio. I don't own the rights, but the artist's name is Alex de Passe.|