Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, but they’ve left Catholics in a bit of quandary. After all, in the Old Testament, Leviticus states very clearly: “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves.” (Leviticus 19:28)
However, in his most recent video on Youtube, Fr. Mike Schmitz talks about tattoos, his recent decision to get one — and then reveals it to his viewers.
Confused? Well, the priest explains in more detail how the purpose and circumstances behind getting a tattoo are paramount to whether they are a good idea — or not.
As he states, if they’re crude or lewd, or a way of consecrating yourself to something other than God, or for the dead, then they’re not okay. But then, the priest introduces us to his own fascinating tattoo story.
First, the popular priest gives a key tip as to whether you really want that design: He suggests literally wearing it for a year on a t-shirt, to see whether you tire of it. Then he speaks about his experience of getting one in the Old City of Jerusalem.
According to Fr. Mike, the tattoo parlor he visited, called the Razzouk Tattoo shop, is the oldest in the world, opening its doors five centuries ago when the family arrived in the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. They decided to stay in Jerusalem and continue their art of tattooing, marking pilgrims to the city. The parlor has now been in the family for 29 generations, with some very special designs.
Interestingly, the tattoo parlor’s website explains a little history about tattoos in the old Christian world:
“Our ancestors used tattoos to mark Christian Copts in Egypt with a small cross on the inside of the wrist to grant them access to churches. Those without it would have difficulty entering the church; therefore, and from a very young age (sometimes even a few months old) Christians would tattoo their children with the cross identifying them as Copts.”
Now, the parlor continues to ink visitors to the city, including Fr. Mike when he stopped by during a recent trip to Jerusalem. The priest explains in the video how he got a very specific inking — the intricate Jerusalem Cross.
There are numerous symbolic meanings behind the design: the four crosses depicting the Gospel writers, as well as the gospel message reaching the four corners of the world. Underneath the cross are the initials, “I. H. S.,” a contraction of the name “Jesus” in Ancient Greek.
What is truly delightful, though, is Fr. Mike’s description of what this tattoo means to him. He repeatedly states that it doesn’t change his life or bring him happiness, but is an indelible declaration of his commitment to Jesus. It also provides him with the opportunity to talk to others about the meaning of the tattoo. You can see it for yourself in his short video below: