(LifeSiteNews) — A Capuchin friar and friend of Shia LaBeouf, who was recently confirmed into the Catholic Church, has shared that the Mass and the Eucharist were pivotal in the Hollywood actor’s conversion, which took place as he prepared for the role of Padre Pio in a 2022 film about the saint.
Asked if anything stood out as particularly important in his conversion, LaBeouf’s confirmation sponsor, Capuchin Brother Alexander Rodriguez unhesitatingly told LifeSiteNews, “The Eucharist,” referring to the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread made present at Mass.
“When he was practicing the Latin Mass, he was just so moved by the fracture of the host… and the elevation of the host, he was so moved by those two things,” said Rodriguez, alluding also to LaBeouf’s attendance at a Latin Mass in Oakland, California, mentioned in his 2022 interview with Bishop Robert Barron.
According to Rodriguez, who served as LaBeouf’s spiritual adviser and catechist and appeared alongside him in the film, LaBeouf even made a point of telling the director, Abel Ferrara, that “the most important part of the movie” is “the Mass” and “the Eucharist,” and that the Eucharist should be the “center” of the film.
The Capuchin friar stressed that Ferrara “loves Padre Pio” but pointed out that while the director was raised Catholic, he was not practicing the faith while he led the film. Rodriguez hopes that LaBeouf’s own conversion will move Ferrara so that he “considers coming back” to the Church.
LaBeouf told Barron during their interview that he considered cultivating a deep appreciation and love for the Mass to be the most important part of his preparation for the role of Padre Pio. Just as the “way into” playing Bob Dylan was the guitar, he considered the “way into” Padre Pio to be the Mass.
“And it wasn’t until I was having emotional reactions at Mass that I felt like I was anything near playing Pio. And Mass got very emotional. Like, really, really, really emotional. And then I felt like now I have permission to go study Pio,” LaBeouf told Barron.
Rodriguez said that LaBeouf was moved by “well done” Masses, which could be a “Novus Ordo done ‘very well’ with Gregorian chant and offered ad orientem,” but that LaBeouf was mostly moved by the Traditional Latin Mass.
LaBeouf appeared to credit the Latin Mass with sparking his very connection with God when he told Barron, “I was never an atheist. I was always an agnostic. I always had a belief, but I never had a connection. Latin Mass gave me something where I felt connected, which took me out of belief and into connection.”
The actor explained that in contrast to the new “guitar Masses,” the Latin Mass “feels like it’s not being done to sell me on anything. It almost feels like I’m being let in on something very special. And the quiet… it activates something in me where I feel like I’ve found something.”
“There’s a certain language where I don’t need to know the words. Which is what I feel when I watch St. Pio’s Mass. I know what’s going on and I feel it deeply,” he went on.
“It almost feels more powerful than when I know every single word. It takes me out of the realm of the intellectual and it puts me squarely in the realm of the feeling, and the beauty thing that you talk about,” he told Barron.
Rodriguez told LifeSiteNews that LaBeouf was “crying a lot” as he received the Sacrament of Confirmation and Holy Communion at Old Mission Santa Inés Parish in Solvang, California, the same place LaBeouf began to prepare for his role as Padre Pio. The actor was confirmed by Bishop Barron, who LaBeouf has previously acknowledged was influential in his conversion.
LeBeouf has clearly internalized the deep reverence for God laced into the very fibers of the Traditional Latin Mass — photos of his Confirmation Mass show him receiving the Holy Eucharist kneeling and on the tongue, despite the lack of a kneeler or altar rail in the church.
Photo credit: Word on Fire
Rodriguez confirmed to LifeSiteNews that LaBeouf shared during filming that he “would like to be ordained a deacon sometime in the future if it’s possible.” At the moment, said Rodriguez, he is focusing on raising his daughter.
LaBeouf has pointed during interviews that at the time that he accepted the role of Padre Pio, he was suffering deeply, in large part from the fallout of “shameful” things he had committed. He believes this suffering is what allowed him to be truly receptive to God and the Catholic faith.
The Capuchin reiterated that it was ultimately LaBeouf’s suffering that enabled his heartfelt conversion.
“His life fell apart and he had nothing. When you have nothing, your only goal, your only direction is God. When you have nothing, all you have is God and then you’re hungry for some spirituality, and so that’s what happened,” Rodriguez said.
He also believes this suffering is the reason why LaBeouf “hooked to Pio so well,” as Pio suffered immensely during his life, as is portrayed in Ferrara’s film.
“Shia in his own way, in his own personal sufferings, is going through conversion still. He’s not perfect. None of us are perfect in the way that people might expect, religious and priests [included],” Rodriguez said.
“Even if he were to fail or mess up, we shouldn’t say ‘I told you so, he was going to backslide.’ No, we should be there for him. Shia is continuously seeking to make amends… to have a real relationship with God and to be living proof that God works even with the worst of sinners.”
LaBeouf opened up about the beginning of his conversion and what attracted him to God and Catholicism in an interview in Italy eight months into his preparation for the film.
“[Y]ou start really believing that God has your back, that God is a buddy — not like this scary thing — reverent, but friendly — this idea of forever love, no matter what you do, with no judgment,” LaBeouf said.
He also shared that far from repelling him, the moral boundaries of the Catholic faith and its emphasis on the need for repentance attracted him.
“Some people say, I don’t like Catholicism because of all that guilt. But for me, I need guidance. I need direction. I always wanted a parent,” LaBeouf said. He went on to recount how when he was a child, he would “ground” himself when he was bad, telling his parents, “I’m gonna be in my room for an hour” as self-imposed punishment.
“And my parents would be like, ‘Do whatever you want, because my parents were hippies,” he continued. The Catholic faith, on the other hand, gives him a “moral compass” to help in living a “righteous life,” giving “peace and serenity” in turn.
“I come from a lot of shame. Before this, I was a very shameful, guilty guy,” LaBeouf said.
Asked to comment on the actor’s attraction to the Latin Mass, a priest known to LifeSiteNews who wishes to remain anonymous shared the following, without having been made aware of LaBeouf’s background or comments on guilt and moral guidance:
Catholicism is built on the notion of sin, guilt, redemption and absolution. Whether we like it or not, we are haunted by our sins… both the sin of Adam and our own personal sins… The guilt of the Catholic is not just that we have sinned but that we continue to still be attracted to those sins even after absolution even though we wear the dead God crucified on our necks and hang them on our walls.
We wear them because we have hope in them. Hope that we can find redemption and absolution for our sins that weigh upon us.
All of these dark notions are at the heart of our faith. And for centuries the liturgy and rituals and art of Catholicism was an expression of these ideas.
And then Vatican II came and wiped away these dark realities of the human condition. They whitewashed everything so that we wouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty, suppressed these ideas of sin and guilt and absolution, and then from there fashioned a new liturgy.
The new liturgy and art and rituals of the church are expressions of a faith that doesn’t want to consider or be haunted by the truth of our sins. And that’s why it’s so stunted. When the art and the Mass do not come from a place of understanding sin and absolution, then it cannot give real hope. Because there is no darkness. So why need hope?
The pre-Vatican II liturgy is so profound because it’s based on those real and human ideas of sin and absolution. Pauline Kael, the famous American film critic, once said that Coppola and Scorsese were directors so good at dealing with humanity in their films because of their Roman Catholicism. When Scorsese speaks about his faith and his films, he always will reference the old ways, because his films all struggle with sins and guilt and redemption. And these ideas only exist in the old liturgy and art.
So I believe when you see Shia speak about the old Mass what you are really seeing is a sensitive soul, an artistic soul who has touched real pain and sin and guilt. And when he encountered the old liturgy… these ideas that haunted his soul made sense. He encountered a liturgy that put before his eyes his sinfulness and guilt but then gave him the pathway to absolution. The new liturgy and art fail in this.
Also, the old liturgy is set up like a play. A great drama… It is set up with its great climactic moments throughout it. Moments of ecstasy when man is confronted with transcendence. It’s like the great films. And you can feel that. The new Mass is like a cheaply made film. Because it doesn’t come from a deep and honest understanding of humanity. And Shia being an actor and a lover of film can sense that.