The Illustrated Monk: Brother Andre Love Can't Leave His Tattoos Behind but Can Move Forward in Pursuing Sanctity

The Illustrated Monk: Brother Andre Love Can’t Leave His Tattoos Behind but Can Move Forward in Pursuing Sanctity

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The Illustrated Monk: Brother Andre Love Can't Leave His Tattoos Behind but Can Move Forward in Pursuing Sanctity

Brother Andre Love in museum at Mt. Angel Jo Garcia-Cobb

“Hold Fast,” reads the tattoo on the knuckles of Brother André Love, OSB. It’s one of the few tattoos that marks a change of heart in the former Bobby Love, tattoo artist and lapsed Catholic, turned Benedictine monk at Mount Angel Abbey, St. Benedict, Oregon.

“My whole body is tattooed,” he said.

There’s no hiding a past so fully illustrated beneath and beyond his black flowing Benedictine habit. Many of his tattoos speak of a past punctuated with anger, separation, and pain. The later ones, including “Hold Fast,” the heart on his palm, the alpha and the omega, came in the early 2000s, as he began turning a new leaf following a moment of epiphany.

His past life of drugs, alcohol, and punk rock, along with his present life of ora et labora, Gregorian chant, and writing icons has clearly been serving as an eloquent witness to the God of surprises.

“‘Who’s this monk that has the tattoos? What’s his story? people ask,’ ” Father Odo Recker, OSB, Mount Angel Abbey’s vocations director, remarked.  “He’s a good monk, very hardworking, very faithful. He was well on his way by the time he came here. His application to the monastery simply authenticated his desire for God and his ability to enter and live in a monastic context.”

Love first became acquainted with the 132-year-old abbey after a friend asked him to do a chest tattoo of the Jerusalem cross, embroidered on the cloth covering the abbey church’s tabernacle. Love visited the abbey, looked at the embroidered cross, and learned about an upcoming vocations discernment retreat.

By then, Love had returned to the Catholic Church after 25 years of absence. Reared Catholic “without a full understanding of what it meant,” Love dropped out and explored other religions. “I had a fear of religion and saw religion as more of a hindrance than a help,” he said.

He hit rock bottom before realizing that he […]