“God was using my ego to draw me to him,” Shia LaBeouf says of his conversion to Catholicism.
Shia LaBeouf recently spoke with Bishop Robert Barron, a former auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the present Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota, about his conversion to Catholicism as he prepared to play St. Padre Pio in a movie by Abel Ferrara.
LaBeouf and Barron discuss acting and the Latin Mass before turning to LaBeouf’s conversion.
The actor says he was suicidal before accepting the role of Padre Pio.
“My life was on fire when I arrived. I left hell. LaBeouf: “I didn’t arrive on a white horse singing show songs.” “I arrived on fire and didn’t want to be an actor. My life sucked. A huge mess. I’d harm many. Shame and remorse overwhelmed me. I seldom went outside. I craved leaving. I left.”
Before this occurred, before the anguish, he thought art, love, and God all meant the same thing. “They’re interchangeable. As an artist, I was often in command.
“Your life is your life,” LaBeouf added. You must make do. You must be a decent person, get married, own a house, and work well. Life is life. Effort pays off. Choose. It was hard to trust in God since I thought my management talents would lead to a fulfilling life.
“When all my blueprints failed, when all my goals went out the window, when my life caused severe grief and damage to others, I threw up my hands like, ‘My plans are rubbish and I don’t want to be here anymore,’” he stated.
LaBeouf said he believes God brought him to the part and his conversion, then detailed his journey: “This is why it feels like cosmic mathematics or some type of divine— it’s too coincidental to be a coincidence. Like I said, my life was on fire. I’m in a spiritual program where we meet via Zoom, and Abel Ferrara was in this meeting.
“And he saw me at the meeting,” he said. We were like-minded. After hearing each other talk, he said in conversation, “Do you know about Padre Pio?” I didn’t know Padre Pio.”
“When this man came out to me, I thought, ‘Wow! Amazing! It’s my opportunity. So my ego says, ‘Yeah, Padre Pio.’ “My ego makes me study Pio,” he says. “It’s not my Catholicism or God-seeking.”
“As I’m studying Pio, he informs me about his aspirations to produce a movie and that Willem Dafoe will be in it,” he says. “From bottom barrel to Willem Dafoe? This is my moment to hustle and ego.”
He was subsequently told to investigate Padre Pio at a seminary. He visited San Lorenzo’s Capuchin friars. Besides visiting, he lived in his truck in their parking lot.
“I’m falling into a group of men I met at San Lorenzo, notably Brother Jude, who starts talking to me about the Gospel,” he recalled of his stay at the Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order. To play Pio, he advises, “Read the Gospel.”
“I’ve never read the Gospel, yet he’s reading me Matthew…. All of Sam Harris. LaBeouf stated he watched all the Ted Talks and attacked Catholicism to feel superior.
So you were agnostic/atheist at the time?
LaBeouf said, “Yes, arguing gave me strength. Contrarian is me. Sitting with a Bishop and putting you on your heels made me feel powerful, something secular people appreciate. So much of life is uncontrolled. Control is satisfying. I was he.”
LaBeouf revealed his faux 13th-birthday Bar Mitzvah.
“I’m phonetically Bar Mitzvahed. I pronounced Hebrew. It was entertaining. It was hectic, he said. “I mumbled. It felt, yet wasn’t emotional. It felt like I was doing it for my grandma, who was dying at the time.
“13 and I read it phonetically; my grandma is delighted; they put me in a chair; that’s my spirituality for a long time.” And I never invested,” he added. “I’d never felt true pain in my life. I lacked faith. I didn’t believe.”
LaBeouf adds, “When I read Matthew for the first time, things struck me. The Baptist John. John the Baptist was a reformed hedonist, a scraggly man who resembled a cowboy. He was rough, strong, and masculine.
““Christ felt nearly like a Buddhist,” he told Bishop Barron. “Soft, sensitive, loving, listening, but no fury, no passion.”
“So all I know about is this really squishy, wimpy Jesus,” he continued. “My dad rode a Mongol. Not attractive. But then I read about John the Baptist and it seemed pretty appealing.”
When he read it, he was clinging to a 35-year managing career. Gospel invited me to let go.
LaBeouf then recalled his mental condition before St. Padre Pio: “I had a pistol on the table. I left. When this happened, I wanted to die.
“I’ve never felt such shame,” he said. “Shame you forget to believe. You’re lost. No tacos outdoors. You won’t move.”
The actor said his research for the film and subsequent dive into the Gospel stopped being about the film.
“It started feeling like movie prep, so I stopped submitting videos. Like at a certain time with Jude I just truly fall in. The Sacred Heart Sisters began catechizing me very seriously. Let’s do it. Paragraph per paragraph.’
He said, “There was also a gathering for another spiritual program I’m in next door to Sister Lucia’s. 9 a.m. I wake up. Meeting. 10 am: Sister Lucia, 11 am: Brother Jude. I’d be with Father James at 12…”
After describing how the brothers greeted him by being his buddy and exchanging jokes, LaBeouf said, “This was the last stop on the train.” It was hopeless. God used my ego to lead me to him, away from earthly desires. All at once. I wouldn’t have driven up here unless I thought, “I’ll salvage my career.”
“When I arrived, a switch flipped. Like 3-card monte. I felt duped. Like. Nope. I missed it. So near, I couldn’t see it. Time has changed my perspective, he said.
LaBeouf describes how he learnt to pray and the significance of the Rosary. While saying the Rosary, he’s motivated to call his mother, who shunned him after reading about his immoral actions.
He tells his mum he loves her and is secure. After the phone call, he felt at ease since he felt his mother dipped on him.
LaBeouf talks about studying about St. Augustine, St. Francis, and St. Padre Pio and “giving your pain as meaningful and inherently useful.” Detachment, attachment, ego, and addiction are discussed.
The two discuss weakness, meekness, and his portrayal of St. Padre Pio.