Actor Shia LaBeouf had a talk with Bishop Robert Barron, former Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and current Bishop of Winona-Rochester Diocese in Minnesota, discussing his conversion to Catholicism as he began preparing for Catholicism. The role of Saint Padre Pio in a film about the life of the saint directed by Abel Ferrara.
LaBeouf and Baron begin their conversation with a brief discussion about acting and the experience of the Latin liturgy, but eventually turns into LaBeouf’s transformation journey.
The actor frankly reveals that his life was not in a good shape and tells that he was contemplating suicide before accepting the role of Padre Pio.
“I got into this, my life was on fire. I was walking out of hell. It wasn’t like I wanted to come here on a white horse singing tunes.” I came here on fire and didn’t want to be an actor anymore. My life was in chaos. A complete mess. I have hurt a lot of people. I felt deep shame and deep guilt. I didn’t like going out very much. I longed not to be here anymore. I was on my way out.”
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He said, “My opinion of God before that happened, before the pain came, before my world collapsed, was art, love, and God, they all meant the same thing.” “They are synonymous. As an artist who creates art, I often found myself in a pious position, where I was in charge.”
LaBeouf continued, “I’ve also been told all my life that your life is your life. You have to do with it what you can. You have to be a good man and then get married and then get a house and get a job and do a good job at your job. Like your life is your life. Things will work out if I made an effort. It’s up to you. And I always really felt like that and it made it hard to believe in God because I felt that my management skills would reach the level of a satisfactory existence.”
When all my designs failed, when all my plans went out the window, and when my life led to serious pain and harm to other people, I threw my hands up like, ‘My plans are rubbish and I don’t want to be here anymore, and I don’t have – this was required to enter the pew , “
LaBeouf then asserted that he believed God had guided him into the role and transformation before detailing his journey step-by-step, “So it sounds like a celestial mathematician or some kind of divine—it seems like a coincidence to be a coincidence. But my life was all on fire as I told you.” And I’m on a spiritual program where I go to Zoom and we have meetings and another person who was in that meeting who was also part of the same fellowship from down and out was a guy named Abel Ferrara.”
He continued, “And he ended up seeing me at the meeting. We share feelings. We heard each other share a few times and then he wrote to me in the chat box, ‘Do you know about Padre Pio?’ And of course I didn’t know anything about Padre Pio.”
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LaBeouf goes on to detail that he saw the opportunity to play Saint Pio as a way to revive his career, “The fact that this director has called me – because at this point I’m nuclear. Nobody wants to talk to me including my mother. The director doesn’t call. The agent doesn’t call. I’m no longer related to work.
So the fact that this guy had reached out to me felt like something in my selfish mind, ‘Wow! This is a miracle! This is my chance. And so my ego pops up and now I’m like, “Yeah, okay look pew.” And my vanity is what makes me look up to Pew, “It’s not my Catholicism or my longing for God.”
“So I started looking for Pio and while I was looking for Pio, he told me about his plans to make a movie and he told me Willem Dafoe would be in the movie, and now I’m really an ego,” he details. “So wait, I can go from the bottom crater to work with Willem Dafoe. This is my chance, you know, to get back into the hustle, back to the ego.”
He was then directed to find a religious school in order to search for Padre Pio. He took the opportunity and visited the Capuchin friars in San Lorenzo. Not only does he visit them, but he lives in his truck in their parking lot.
“I fall into a group of men who met me in San Lorenzo, mostly a guy named Brother Jude, who started talking to me about the gospel,” he said, describing his time in the Capuchin province of Saint Mary. You need to read the Bible.”
“So I’ve never read the Bible reading Matthew Lee. … I’ve read everything Sam Harris. I’ve watched all of the TED talks and I was really good at attacking Catholicism because it made me feel superior,” LaBeouf said.
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Then Bishop Barron asked, “So you were some kind of atheist/atheist at the time?”
LaBeouf replied, “Yes, I loved arguing because it made me feel in power. I like to be a contrarian. I liked to sit with a bishop and then put you on your heels because that would make me feel powerful, which I find most laymen enjoy. Control over it because so much of life doesn’t It can be controlled. The feeling of being in control is a good feeling. So I was that guy.”
LaBeouf then went on to explain his childhood details and how he got his bar mitzvah when he was thirteen, but he called it fake.
“I was a bar mitzvah phonetically. I read Hebrew phonetically. It felt like a show. It sounded like a hustle,” he explained. I didn’t know what to say. This way I felt and was not emotional. I felt like I was doing it for my grandmother, who at the time was on her last leg, and was told I needed to have a bar mitzvah for my grandmother.”
“13 and I read it aloud and my grandmother was happy, and they put me in a chair and this is my spirituality for a long time. And it felt fake because I was never invested.” “There was nothing—I had never felt any real suffering in my life. So I had no willingness to believe. So I had no faith.”
Going back to the teaching of Matthew’s Gospel, LaBeouf says, “I read it for the first time and things started to shock me. Like John the Baptist. The story of John the Baptist being a zealot reformer for fun, being this guy who was kind of emaciated and felt like an old Western character—he felt like a cowboy. Rustic, strong and somewhat manly.”
He said to Bishop Baron: “I felt that my opinion of Christ at this stage was almost like I was reading about a Buddhist.” “Like this so soft, crisp, loving, everyone listens, but no ferocity, no romance.”
“So all I know is that this very thin and weak Jesus, who doesn’t fit in with my idea of masculinity,” he said. “My father was a Mongolian cyclist. It was not attractive to me. But then I read about John the Baptist and it became very attractive.”
He then elaborated, “At the time when I was reading it, I was holding onto a life that was slipping away in my hands into 35 years of management. The Bible gave me this call to let go.”
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Uncovering a “disgrace I’ve never seen before”. “The kind of shame you forget how to believe. You don’t know where to go. You can’t go out to get such a taco. You don’t want to go anywhere.”
The actor went on to detail that his research into the St. Padre Pio and his later Diving into the Bible film discontinued the film.
“It stopped being like setting up a movie and it started to be something beyond all of that and I stopped sending videos. Like it happened at one point with Judd, I really fell in. Then I met these women, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who started teaching me in a very real way.” Its very like, ‘Let’s go through that. Let’s talk about it paragraph by paragraph.
He continued, “And what happened is a church meeting for this other spiritual program, I’m next to Sister Lucia. So I get up in the morning 9 am. I go to my meeting. Then at ten in the morning I will be with Sister Lucia, then at eleven in the morning I will be with Brother Jude. Then 12 I’ll be with Father James who is now in…”
After explaining in detail how the brothers welcomed being his friend and telling him jokes and sharing laughs with him, LaBeouf again repeated what his mental state was like before he arrived, “This was the last stop on the train. There was literally nowhere else to go. I now know that God was He used my ego to draw me to him, and he was pulling me away from worldly desires. It was all happening at once. But there would have been no motivation for me to get in the car and drive here if I hadn’t thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to save my career.’
“And what happened to me when I came here was the switch happened. It was like a three-card Mont. It was as if someone had tricked me into it. That feels great. Not in a bad way. In a way I couldn’t see it. I was too close to him and couldn’t From seeing him. I see him differently now because time has passed.”
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LaBeouf goes on to detail how he learned prayer and the value he finds in praying the Rosary. In fact, he details while praying the Rosary that it inspired him to call his mother who doesn’t want anything to be done with him after so many headlines about his depraved behavior.
He ends up calling his mother and letting her know that he loves her and is safe. After the phone call, he revealed that he felt at peace as he was feeling hostile towards his mother because he felt that she was immersed in him.
LaBeoufs also ultimately discusses learning about Saint Augustine, Saint Francis, and Saint Padre Pio and how he discovered “presenting your sufferings purposefully and of intrinsic value.” This also leads to a discussion about separation, attachment, ego, and addiction.
The two also discuss the difference between vulnerability and meekness and the advice he received regarding his depiction of Saint Padre Pio.
What do you think of LaBeouf’s conversion to Catholicism and his declaration that it was part of God’s plan?
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