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3 Lessons from the Conversion of Shia LaBeouf

The feast of St. Padre Pio, the mystic and performer of many miracles, was celebrated on September 23. On August 25, Bishop Barron released a now viral interview with actor Shia LaBeouf on his recent conversion to Catholicism after portraying Padre Pio in an upcoming October biopic of the mystic’s life.

LaBeouf has won multiple acting awards and landed major roles, but perhaps has been best known for his troubled personal life filled with addiction, criminal activity, abuse, arrests and graphic losses of shame and self-worth. Finally reaching a breaking point and contemplating ending it all, LaBeouf was approached by Abel Ferrara to work on a film about Padre Pio.

In order to play the role, Shia LaBeouf had to learn about the Catholic faith and about the Capuchin order to which St. Pio belonged. He drove to San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, California, where he met and was befriended by the Capuchins.

From his dramatic conversion of a life of sin to one striving for virtue, Hollywood, Catholics, and even non-Catholics can learn from his struggle to find authentic truth, beauty and goodness. Here are 3 lessons from the conversion of Shia LeBouf, inspired by the life of Padre Pio, that all of us striving for holiness can follow.


1. Attend Holy Mass

Padre Pio knew that we could not spiritually survive without the spiritual sustenance drawn from Mass. He once said that “it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass.”

Shia LaBeouf felt this firsthand when he discovered he had been baptized by an uncle and the Capuchins allowed him to begin receiving Holy Communion. He said he could almost feel the physical effect and regeneration of entering into Christ’s death and resurrection.

LaBeouf stated, “I start feeling a physical effect from it,” he said of going to Communion. “I start feeling a reprieve, and it starts feeling, like, regenerative, and [I] start enjoying it to such a degree I don’t want to miss it, ever.”

Padre Pio models for us in how we should approach Mass. The more we approach the altar of the Lord with awe and love, the more we will appreciate it. The more we appreciate it, the more the Eucharist will transform our lives.


2. Follow the Example of Saints

LaBeouf was greatly moved in his conversion by the fact that great converts preceded him. He spoke of the impact of St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi, but mainly of Capuchin Brother Jim Townsend. Townsend was a con man who murdered his pregnant wife and spent 20 years in prison, but converted and ended up spending 39 years as a Capuchin. He “gave me permission as a sinner,” LaBeouf said; if after all Townsend had done, such a man could live by faith, there was hope for him, too.

LaBeouf also came to know Padre Pio as “one of the most respected, beloved saints who ever graced the earth.” To immerse oneself in his life in the midst of his fellow Capuchins — trying to imitate the way he celebrated Mass, prayed, sought and dispensed God’s mercy, dealt with suffering and rejection, prayed from dawn to dusk, manfully challenged others to holiness, and lived his Capuchin vocation with immense faith, hope and charity — has been for LaBeouf a tremendous school that, likewise, “saved my life.”


3. Learn to Suffer Well

St. John Paul II highlighted Padre Pio’s grace in handling suffering well saying that “difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.” Each of our paths to holiness is different, but the means of getting there is the same for everyone: by grace following Christ and taking His will and cross as our own.

LaBeouf’s path to conversion involved not only suffering himself, but having those he loved suffer because of him as well – so much so that he thought that the suffering he had borne and caused until then was “pointless.” A Capuchin helped him to see how “suffering is actually a gift” — a realization that led LaBeouf even to thank the woman who had accused him of sexual

abuse, who he said “saved his life,” through the shame he had to endure as a result of her accusations and the pain he had caused.

After months of intense study, Shia LaBeouf stated that he felt drawn by the way that the Catholic life is “full immersion,” involving reason, will and feelings. This life of integrity drew him deeper into the mystery of Christ’s example of redemptive suffering and tipped the scales in favor of LaBeouf’s conversion.


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Padre Pio, Pray for Us!


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