I have fun memories of hanging out with the Jesuits at Fordham back when noted author & fellow Russian class member Andrew Krivak was a Jesuit in training. Tonight, getting back to the BofG after an intense week of social enterprise-related projects, I noticed that we a bunch of jesuitical click-throughs thanks to a Good Jesuit Bad Jesuit post on tattoos.
It's a fascinating subject. Marshall McLuhan, a devout Catholic as well as a media theorist, would have seen the direct connection between spiritual tattoos and the Church in an electronic age.
Earlier Jesuits, though, might have been more puzzled:
Numerous brief references to tattooing are found in writings of 17th century Jesuit missionaries whose reports were forwarded to Paris each year and compiled in volumes titled Jesuit Relations . Jesuit missions were scattered throughout eastern Canada, and missionaries reported that tattooing was practiced by almost all of the native tribes they encountered. In 1653 the Jesuit missionary Francois-J. Bressani reported:
In order to paint permanent marks on themselves they undergo intense pain. To do this they use needles, sharpened awls, or thorns. With these instruments they pierce the skin and trace images of animals or monsters, for example an eagle, a serpent, a dragon, or any other figure they like, which they engrave on their faces, their necks, their chests, or other parts of their bodies. Then, while the punctures which form the designs are fresh and bleeding, they rub in charcoal or some other black color which mixes with the blood and penetrates the wound. The image is then indelibly imprinted on the skin. This custom is so widespread that I believe that in many of these native tribes it would be impossible to find a single individual who is not marked in this way. When this operation is performed over the entire body it is dangerous, especially in cold weather. Many have died after the operation, either as the result of a kind of spasm which it produces, or for other reasons. The natives thus die as martyrs to vanity because of this bizarre custom.