Up until last week, there were few positive search results for Shia LaBeouf’s name on any search engine website. The actor has had a slew of mishaps, several ending up with police officers and inside courtrooms. Now, he claims that his preparation for and role in a new movie on the life of the Catholic priest and St. Padre Pio has converted him to the Catholic faith.
Some might propose that LaBeouf’s “conversion” is a ploy to promote his movie since he was such a down-and-out actor. His career was nearly over, so maybe he is willing to do anything to return to the spotlight. There are several reasons why this is not probable. Among the top two reasons is the depth and intricacy of his explanation of his conversion along with the literal transformation of his life.
LaBeouf’’s problems with the law and his history of taking things too far can be traced back to his 2007 encounter in a Chicago Walgreens following his 21st birthday celebration. “I got really wasted in Chicago and ended celebrating in Walgreens,” he said. He was removed by security guards because he refused to leave the store after appearing highly intoxicated.
Most recently, LaBeouf’’s career appeared to be over because of the combination of his drinking problem and the reports revolving around battery charges with his ex-girlfriend. The New York Times reported that FKA Twigs (Lebouf’s ex-girlfriend) alleged LaBeouf’ was verbally abusive, physically threw her up against her car, and was enraged at her. Her claim was that this was her ordinary experience of being around LaBeouf’.
The Times and other outlets reported that Lebouf knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease. Another ex-girlfriend of his reported similar behavior in their relationship. The list of immorality and disgrace is very lengthy for Lebouf.
Now, he says he is a changed man. A judge ruled that he would have to attend weekly meetings for his anger management as well as be monitored for his drinking problem. Simultaneously, he was approached about the possibility of playing Padre Pio. So he got in his truck and began living in the parking lot of a seminary (an institution where men study to be priests) to learn more about the Catholic faith and the famous saint.
Lebouf claims that it all began with the Capuchin friars, the religious order that Pio belonged to. He was amazed by their sincere spirituality. He sat down with Bishop Robert Barron of the “Word on Fire” podcast to have a nearly 90-minute interview about his conversion. LaBeouf said it was encountering the deep sinfulness of now holy men that gave him hope.
At the time that he was asked to play Padre Pio, Lebouf claims that “he had a gun on the table. It was all over for me.” Meeting Catholics who were authentically living out the faith and appeared to have intimacy with the person of Jesus Christ made him curious about the faith at first and later convinced him that he misunderstood who Jesus was.
LaBeouf said that, in his head, Jesus was “like Buddha or something … always gentle.” But then he began reading the Gospel of Matthew with a friar and saw Jesus’ adventure and strength being lived out in his teachings, miracles, life, and death. He saw that Jesus demanded everything of his followers.
“I am an all-immersion person,” Lebouf claimed. This stood out to him about the friars he began to live with and share his wounds with. It was in “letting go” that he found that God was real and made a real difference in his life. The sacredness of being in the chapel and attending Mass began giving him real peace while also giving him the experience of forgiveness and knowing that his past did not define him.
Historically speaking, what happened to LaBeouf has happened to countless Christians. From St. Augustine to St. Francis and all the way back to St. Paul. Jesus often becomes most real and life-changing when people are at their absolute lowest point. He offers a way out for the sinner who thinks that everything is over. This is a major reason why LaBeouf’s story is circulating so quickly and why it can be trusted as authentic.
His past is not a reason to question if it is true but another piece of evidence for it being the real deal. He does not appear to be a guy who sat around memorizing his words like he does a script. He often takes long pauses and finds his experience difficult to describe — a common quality of gratitude for a supernatural encounter and transformation. LaBeouf’s story is the hallmark of what happens to sinful people (all of us) when we truly encounter God.