Actor Converts to Catholicism

News: US News
by Peter ODwyer  •  •  August 27, 2022   

Shia LaBeouf to play Padre Pio in upcoming film

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DETROIT ( - Actor Shia LaBeouf has converted to Catholicism. He discussed his spiritual journey in a Word on Fire interview with Bp. Barron.

The actor, who is playing Padre Pio in an upcoming biopic, credits the Latin Mass in particular for his spiritual renewal. During the interview that debuted Thursday, Bp. Barron asked LaBeouf why he was moved so much by the Latin Mass. LeBoeuf replied, "Because it feels like they're not selling me a car."

"It feels like it's not being done to sell me on anything," he went on to say. "It feels almost like I'm being let in on something very special."

Over the last few years, the actor has embroiled himself in several scandals.

YouTube: Bishop Barron Presents: Shia LaBeouf — Padre Pio and the Friars

An eccentric motivational speech became fodder for memes in 2015. He made headlines with the "He Will Not Divide Us" online performance art project, wherein a flag with the words "he will not divide us" was flown from an unknown location and live-streamed. The project became famous after inspired internet trolls used aircraft contrails and the stars to locate and steal the flag.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

LaBeouf was accused of sexual assault by three women and entered psychiatric treatment in 2020. According to LaBeouf, "My life was on fire. I was walking out of hell." He felt great shame for hurting other people.

His downward spiral was the key to his spiritual awakening, clearing the way for him to accept the leading role in an upcoming Abel Ferrara film about St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

The saint, also known as "Padre Pio," is one of the most beloved saints of the 20th century. Pio lived an extraordinary life, miraculously bearing on his body the stigmata — the wounds of Christ on the Cross.

Abel Ferrara had planned to make a St. Pio movie for years and reached out to LaBeouf after meeting him online in a "spiritual program." LaBeouf heard actor Willem Dafoe was participating in the project, and he wanted in.

At first, LaBeouf viewed the invitation merely as a way to get his career back on track. Ferrara told LaBeouf if he wished to play the role of Padre Pio, he would have to go to a seminary or monastery and begin to research.

YouTube: Padre Pio Official Trailer

"I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him," LaBeouf reflected, "drawing me away from worldly desires. It was all happening simultaneously. But there would have been no impetus for me to get in my car, drive up [to the monastery] if I didn't think, 'Oh, I'm going to save my career.'" 

At San Lorenzo Seminary, LaBeouf met with the brothers and was first introduced to the Gospels. "I read all Sam Harris. I've watched all the Ted Talks and was really good at attacking Catholicism because it made feel superior," said the actor.

 San Lorenzo Seminary

LaBeouf says he's still learning the Rosary. He read St. Augustine of Hippo and identified strongly with the saint's regret for his hedonistic past. LaBeouf's shame had been an obstacle to his spirituality, but, according to the actor, "I started hearing experiences of other depraved people who had found their way — in this — and it made me feel like I had permission."

LaBeouf credits the Latin Mass especially for deepening his faith. He was introduced to the Traditional Latin Mass while preparing for the role of St. Pio, as it's the Mass that Pio offered for decades. LaBeouf attended Mass at a parish run by the Institute of Christ the King, a group devoted to offering the old form of the sacred Liturgy. He explains that he was never a true atheist: "Even when I was a Sam Harris, Ted Talk, Christopher Hitchens guy." 

LaBeouf met with priests who had known St. Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy, and he felt immense pressure to live up to the saint he was portraying. A priest who had confessed to St. Pio provided guidance and technical support on set.

LaBeouf credits the Latin Mass especially for deepening his faith.

It is not unheard of for actors to convert to Catholicism on set. Alec Guinness, the Academy Award–winning actor famous for Bridge on the River Kwai and Star Wars, was moved to convert to Catholicism while playing the title character in Father Brown.

Likewise, Luca Lionello converted due to his experience playing Judas Iscariot in The Passion of the Christ

Padre Pio will be released in September 2022.

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