Movie star Shia LaBeouf has opened up about what led him to convert to Catholicism.
The actor is gearing up for the Sept. 9 release of his latest film, "Padre Pio," where he stars in the role of the beloved Franciscan Capuchin friar. LaBeouf will play Padre Pio, an Italian saint who lived in the 20th century, and his role will center around the saint's young life, according to Internet Movie Database.
In a recent interview with Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, LaBeouf recounts his journey to Christianity following a really dark season in his life. He described his life as a "mess" and that he didn't want to be an actor anymore because he felt "deep shame." He said he had a "yearning not to be here anymore."
"I had a gun on the table. I was out of here. I didn't want to be alive anymore when all this happened, shame like I had never experienced before — the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe, you don't know where to go. You can't go outside and get, like, a taco. But I was also in this deep desire to hold on," he said.
LaBeouf's decision to take the role of Padre Pio was his attempt to rebuild his career. But after living for a while at a monastery to prepare for the role, his own life was significantly impacted.
"My pain made me willing" to consider God, the performer commented.
The entertainer was raised culturally Jewish but was never really committed to a faith. He once claimed to not believe in God at all and thought Jesus was this "soft meek" figure that he was not intrigued by.
In the interview with Bishop Barron, LaBeouf said he had "nowhere to go."
"This was the last stop on the train. There was nowhere else to go — in every sense," the 36-year-old continued.
"I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him, drawing me away from worldly desires. It was all happening simultaneously. But there would have been no impetus for me to get in my car, drive up [to the monastery] if I didn't think, 'Oh, I'm going to save my career.'"
Footage posted online last year of LaBeouf preparing for the role of Padre Pio provided a glimpse into where the actor's heart with God is after he spent time at a Franciscan Capuchin friary based in northern California to help immerse himself into the work of the friars.
The actor felt as if God set him up there unbeknownst to him.
"When I got here, a switch happened. It was like Three-Card Monte. It was like someone tricked me into it. It felt like, not in a bad way, in a way that I couldn't see it. I was so close to it that I couldn't see it. I see it differently now that time has passed," LaBeouf noted.
A man named Brother Jude introduced LaBeouf to reading the Gospel, something LaBeouf said he has never done before. The roughness of John the Baptist intrigued him.
After reading through the gospels, the troubled entertainer, who is accused of spreading STDs and abuse by a former girlfriend, explained that he kept hearing the words "Let Go." Those words caused him to let go of his career and his ego to fully "surrender" his heart to God.
He said he eventually learned the value of prayer and communion. As he continued to study for his role as Father Pio, LaBeouf's "emotional" connection to Christianity significantly increased.
The "Transformers" star credited the Christian approach to repentance with pulling him out of his suicidal dark place.
"It was seeing other people who have sinned beyond anything I could ever conceptualize also being found in Christ that made me feel like, 'Oh, that gives me hope,'" LaBeouf told Barron. "I started hearing experiences of other depraved people who had found their way in this, and it made me feel like I had permission."
"Art isn't God for me. … The more loving I am, the closer I feel to God," LaBeouf declared.
He admitted that he was turned off by the more "traditional" approach to Catholic mass but really enjoys it when priests speak directly from the Bible.
According to reports, the "Even Stevens" actor also went on a pilgrimage to the Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio, also known as St. Pio of Pietrelcina, lived and served for more than half a century.
Last August, the actor was featured in a video sharing his time at the seminary.
"I'm completely immersed in something way bigger than myself. I don't know if I've ever met a group of men as immersed in anything in my life," he said. "It's super attractive to see people give themselves to something so divine. And it's heartwarming to know that there's a brotherhood like this that exists."
LaBeouf revealed that he was met with "nothing but grace" by the friars he encountered along the way.
As stated in a biography compiled by the Padre Pio Foundation of America, the future saint born to the name Francesco Forgione rose to fame in the Catholic world for experiencing what is known as the stigmata — wounds corresponding to those experienced by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.
Several miracles have been attributed to Pio, who continuously bled from the stigmata wounds without experiencing a corresponding fever or loss in blood pressure.
More than 30 years after Pio died in 1968, Pope St. John Paul II beatified the monk in 1999. In 2002, he was canonized.
"Freedom doesn't feel good without structure," LaBeouf stated.
He added that learning Catholicism by studying Pio's life has "given me structure to be able to enjoy my freedom. It's given me purpose!"
Watch LaBeouf's full interview with Barron below:
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic