Priest gets a ‘tattoo’ : Bold move helps make a point in Pentecost homily


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

NEWTON — Father William Reynolds doesn’t like tattoos and has preached against getting one.

He began his homily the weekend of Pentecost talking about his favorite font for printing, Times New Roman. He revealed early in his homily that he had made his inaugural visit to a tattoo parlor and came away with something new on his upper left arm: “Love,” in Times New Roman.

Contributed Father Bill Reynolds shows off his temporary tattoo. Fr. Reynolds used the tattoo as part of his homily for Pentecost.
Father Bill Reynolds shows off his temporary tattoo. Fr. Reynolds used the tattoo as part of his homily for Pentecost.

With this introduction to his homily, he could see from the pulpits in Newton and Colfax that he had people’s attention. Church-goers at Sacred Heart in Newton and Immaculate Conception in Colfax didn’t get to see the red-colored tattoo during Mass because Father’s vestments covered it. He continued his homily without spilling the beans: the tattoo was temporary.


But the idea of him getting a tattoo served as a powerful analogy to his homily’s theme: markings, and what they mean to people of faith.

“Being marked is so important to many people today.… Such markings indicate a sense of belonging. It is the belonging, rather than the marks that symbolize belonging, that is probably more important.”

The priest told his listeners that it is “because of our belonging that we are here together today, because of our belonging to Christ in his holy Catholic Church.”
He noted that “there is something in Catholic theology which is not mentioned very often. It is called ‘sacramental character.’ That is our belief that several of our sacraments (baptism, confirmation and holy orders) touch us in such a profound way that our ‘character,’ as it were, is permanently changed. Our soul is touched and changed in a way that … cannot be removed.”

While “our souls are marked with the Holy Spirit from the valid reception of confirmation, are our lives so marked?” he asked the congregation. “If not, then there is a dichotomy between what we truly are in Christ, and how we present ourselves to the world.”

While Sacred Heart parishioner Marty Stratton appreciated the homily, he suspected something was up from the beginning when Fr. Reynolds said he’d gotten a tattoo. “Having served on the pastoral council and the liturgy commission for many years, I turned to my wife (Debbie) and said, ‘Ah, there’s something wrong here,’” Stratton told The Catholic Messenger. “I knew that he wouldn’t do that. We’ve had discussions about the body being the temple of Christ.” Nonetheless, Stratton was surprised. “I knew it wasn’t going to be true, but it caught me off guard.”

The homily also surprised Sacred Heart parishioner Francine Farver. “I was thinking, ‘Isn’t he the one who gave a homily about not putting a tattoo on his body?’”

After Mass, Fr. Reynolds confessed that the tattoo was temporary. Tattoo artist Westley Dickerson of Clover Tattoo in Des Moines stenciled it on with a red Sharpie marker. Beforehand, Fr. Reynolds “was curious, never had a tattoo, and asked questions about how it was done and asked if it was possible to do a temporary one,” Dickerson said. It took only a few minutes to apply the tattoo, after the design was selected.

Dickerson didn’t know his customer was a priest until Fr. Reynolds explained that the tattoo was going to be part of his homily for the coming weekend.

Dickerson hoped he’d come back for a permanent tattoo.

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