Former Disney star Shia LaBeouf said he converted to Catholicism while studying his role as a saint in the new biopic film, “Padre Pio.”
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The 36-year-old “Transformers” actor made the revelation about his “salvific journey” in a 90-minute interview with Bishop Robert Barron, whom he met preparing for the role.
LaBeouf was agnostic and set out to save his career, but said God drew him in when he had “nowhere else to go.”
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He was living at a monastery with Capuchin friars in Italy learning to portray Padre Pio, who was born Francesco Forgione in 1887 and became a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 2002. Pio was famous for showing stigmata, the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.
“I was walking out of hell…I didn’t want to be an actor anymore…and my life was a mess… and I’d hurt a lot of people,” he said.
Shia LaBeouf read the Gospel for the first time
LaBeouf told the bishop he never read the gospel but had seen all the “Sam Harris” YouTube videos. He read the gospel of Matthew for the first time and “it struck him.”
“All I knew about was this soft, meek Jesus, which didn’t fit into my idea of what masculinity would be…it wasn’t appealing to me. Then I read John the Baptist and it became quite appealing to me,” he said.
LaBeouf said he would sum the gospel up in two words: “Let go.”
“At that time I was reading it, I was holding on so tight to a life that was slipping away through my hands, to 35 years of management, that the gospel gave me this invite to just let go,” he explained.
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“I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him, was drawing me away from worldly desires. It was all happening simultaneously,” LaBeouf said.
“It didn’t make any sense to me that God comes to those who give. That’s not what I was told before I came in. I came from the school of ‘God helps those who helps themselves.’ That’s what I was told, and that’s not what I found. God comes to those who give, those who ask. That’s what I’ve experienced,” he said.
LaBeouf, whose mom is Jewish and dad is Christian, said he didn’t know anything about prayer or silence before the monastery.
And he explained a moment when he had the thought to call his mom, but she didn’t want anything to do with him because of all the negative press about him.
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The “Even Stevens” star was charged with two misdemeanors — petty theft and batter — last year after he stole a man’s hat in a fight that turned physical. Then he was sued by ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs over alleged abusive behavior.
“It was seeing other people who have sinned beyond anything I could ever conceptualize also being found in Christ that made me feel like, ‘Oh, that gives me hope,’” LaBeouf said. “I started hearing experiences of other depraved people who had found their way in this, and it made me feel like I had permission.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW:
Barren of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota and the founder of Word on Fire Ministries said he was “delighted” to talk with LaBeouf.
“Our conversation focuses on the life of Padre Pio and how, in Shia’s words, Padre Pio saved his own life,” Barren said. “We also cover a range of other topics, including method acting, prayer, suffering, the ego, the traditional Latin Mass, Shia’s time with the Capuchin friars, and more. I could have talked with Shia for hours. It has been a pleasure to get to know him.”
I’ve seen Shia LaBeouf on the big screen for years. I don’t know him, but I hope and pray he continues to be strengthened on his faith journey.
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Caleb Parke is the SMG managing editor. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and connect with him at calebparke.com.