I watched this interview about the new documentary on Saint Padre Pio because of my interest in the famous Saint noted for many attributes including his stigmata. The Saint, who is known to have cried almost continuously as a celebrant, described the Mass as “a sacred participation in the passion of Jesus.” In the movie, the Saint’s role is played by Shia LaBeouf, a self-described ‘feeling’, immersive actor. Bishop Barren interviews LaBeouf about his experience in preparing to play the controversial Saint. This interview (on YouTube) is a great find and not what I expected.
The actor describes the opportunity to play the role as “miraculous, unearned, and too many coincidences to be coincidental.” The actor's metamorphosis is clear. It is also clear the Capuchin friars played an integral part in Shia LaBeouf’s cathartic experience.
Accused of spousal abuse, among other sins, the actor accepted the role during a dark time in his life. He describes his deep place of shame so steep he was contemplating suicide. With everyone avoiding him, including his mother, he saw this one and only offer to play the Saint as a lifeline to redeem his career.
He immersed himself in preparing for the part, taking up residence on the grounds of the Capuchins Franciscans monastery, the order of which St. Padre Pio is its most renowned member. The San Lorenzo friars welcomed LaBeouf without judgement or reservation, and included him in their daily life, to prepare for his role.
LaBeouf notes the monks asked nothing of him, while he hung out, eating them out of house and home. “They simply drew me into laugher”, he says, and even their cat warmed up to him in the process.
The actor received tutelage from a friar and a Sacred Heart sister who advised him to read the bible and classics like Thomas Merton, and to attend Mass. He does all this willingly with the fervor of a man desperately needing redemption. You know an awakening is coming when a regular person randomly takes up with the monastics and immerses himself in all things spiritual. And a kind of awakening does happen for LaBeouf, starting with a consistent and persistent message from God to ‘Let go’.
Many details of his experiences are unknown to us, but his countenance, his energy, tells a story. LaBeouf reflects that what started an ego-centric road to redeem and salvage his acting career, was, in retrospect, his salvific journey. “I always thought that God helps those who help themselves. Rather, I found that God comes to those who give, those who ask.”
The Capuchins Franciscans website describes the friars’ spirituality as: witnessing simply to Jesus Christ and the Church as a joyful presence of hope and salvation to all, especially to those most in need. It appears their mission became a balm and a place of recovery for a man who had hit rock bottom.
Whether or not the actor’s conversion is long-lived, the Capuchin Franciscans of San Lorenzo appear to show us a model of true evangelization done right. No judgment, no eloquent and convincing arguments; a simple acceptance and sharing of meals and laughter. A model we can learn from.
Bishop Barren sums up the actor’s spiritual experience in these words: “The company of Capuchins drew you in, the company of saints in heaven also drew you in, and in particular, Padre Pio, in his role in heaven.”
You must have boundless faith in the divine goodness, for the victory is absolutely certain. ~ St Padre Pio