January 10, 2024 // National

‘Padre Pio’ Actor Shia LaBeouf Enters the Catholic Church

(OSV News) – An actor who recently portrayed a beloved saint on screen has now fully come into the Catholic Church in real life.

Shia LaBeouf, a Hollywood veteran and star of director Abel Ferrara’s film “Padre Pio,” received the Sacrament of Confirmation, completing his initiation into the Catholic faith, during the New Year holiday weekend, according to announcements posted on Tuesday, January 2, to Facebook and Instagram by the Capuchin Franciscans’ Western American Province.

This is a publicity poster for the new drama “Padre Pio,” which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival and will be released in U.S. theaters and on demand June 2, 2023. (OSV News photo/Gravitas Ventures)

The friars posted several pictures of a smiling LaBeouf with the friars and Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, who had previously interviewed the actor through his Word on Fire apostolate.

Capuchin Father Joseph Seraphin Dederick, the Provincial, told OSV News that Bishop Barron administered the sacrament to LaBeouf at the Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang, California, on Sunday, December 31.

“We are thrilled to share that our dear friend Shia LaBeouf has fully entered the Church this past weekend through the Sacrament of Confirmation!” the friars said in their posts, adding that they “are overjoyed to welcome him into the fold and witness his deep commitment to his faith journey.”

LaBeouf developed both working and personal relationships with the friars while researching his role in “Padre Pio.”

Speaking to OSV News in May, LaBeouf said he “wasn’t even trying to make movies” when Ferrara approached him about the role.

Shia LaBeouf stars in the new drama “Padre Pio,” which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival and will be released in U.S. theaters and on demand June 2, 2023. (OSV News photo/Gravitas Ventures)

The acclaimed 37-year-old actor – whose Emmy-winning career as a kid on the Disney Channel blossomed into big-screen success – found himself “totally lost” after his inner demons led to partying, work conflicts, and run-ins with the law.

“I was wandering around, living in my truck,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in acting anymore.”

As LaBeouf began confronting his personal issues, Ferrara tapped him for “Padre Pio,” a saint to whom the Bronx-born director – best known for his gritty cinematic takes on the underworld – felt himself “drawn.”

While researching the film, LaBeouf met Brother Alexander Rodriguez, a Capuchin Franciscan who is Assistant Vocation Director at the order’s Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang, California.
Soon, LaBeouf was asking about more than one of the congregation’s most beloved saints.

“Shia was looking to know about Padre Pio, and then delved into the faith,” Brother Alexander told OSV News in May. “He got into RCIA (referring to the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults). The friars and I were helping to catechize him.”

LaBeouf told OSV News at the time that “(learning) how to pray the Rosary” brought a “tangible relief” that he had previously sought through drugs, alcohol, and life in the fast lane.

The lessons continued as Brother Alexander accompanied LaBeouf to Italy for filming, with the Capuchin providing technical assistance for the project while appearing in the movie as Padre Pio’s fellow Capuchin and spiritual adviser.

“I fell in love with Christ,” LaBeouf told OSV News in May.

Now the actor, “known for his incredible talent and passion in the entertainment industry, has embarked on a profound spiritual journey that has led him to embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the Capuchin friars wrote in their January 2 Facebook and Instagram posts. “His decision to fully enter the Church is a testament to his sincere desire to grow in his relationship with God and live out the Gospel values.”

The friars added: “As Capuchin Franciscans, we believe in the transformative power of faith and the incredible impact it can have on one’s life. We are humbled and grateful to walk alongside Shia as he takes this important step in his spiritual journey.

“We invite you to join us in celebrating this momentous occasion and to keep Shia LaBeouf in your prayers as he continues to deepen his faith and seek God’s guidance in his life,” the friars said. “May his example inspire others to explore their own spiritual paths and find solace in the loving embrace of the Church.”

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News. 

Newly Translated Padre Pio Letters Coming to Your Inbox

(OSV News) – A beloved Italian saint is speaking to faithful anew through a series of letters sent directly to their email inboxes.

The St. Pio Foundation has announced the release of “Epistolary,” a collection of 365 letters written by St. Pio of Pietrelcina, widely known as Padre Pio, to his spiritual directors and students. A dedicated page on the foundation’s website includes a sign-up form (available at saintpiofoundation.org/saint-pios-epistolary) for receiving a weekly PDF with seven letters, one for each day of a given week. The first batch of letters was sent out on Monday, January 1, by the foundation based in Tuckahoe, New York.

Freshly translated into English from the original Italian, the Epistolary represents a fraction of the “thousands and thousands of letters” Padre Pio wrote during his lifetime, Luciano Lamonarca, Founder and CEO of the St. Pio Foundation, told OSV News.

Born Francesco Forgione in 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, the future saint entered the Capuchin order at age 15 and was ordained in 1910. Between 1915 and 1918, he served intermittently in the Italian Army’s medical corps during World War I but was ultimately discharged because of poor health. He returned to his monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, and in 1918 received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), the first known priest to receive such marks in the history of the Church.

Amid sustained physical and spiritual suffering – compounded by austerity and long hours of prayer – he established Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, now a renowned national research hospital located in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Capuchin also devoted himself to the healing of souls, often spending more than 15 hours a day hearing confession. Padre Pio died in 1968 and was canonized in 2002 by St. John Paul II, with whom he had been friends since 1947.

The Capuchin’s voluminous correspondence was a ministry unto itself, imparting encouragement, fatherly corrections, and commonsense spirituality centered in an intensely personal relationship with Christ.

“If God has not abandoned you in the past, how would He abandon you in the future when now, more than in the past, you want to belong to Him from now onwards?” wrote Padre Pio to Antonietta Vona, one of his “spiritual daughters,” in November of 1917. “Do not fear that something bad could happen to you in this world, because it may never happen to you. But, in any case, should this ever happen to you, God will give you the strength to overcome it.”

At the same time, Padre Pio’s writings reveal his own struggles with spiritual dryness.

“I’m alone in the day, I’m alone during the night, and no ray of light comes to shine on me, never a drop of refreshness comes to put off the flame that engulfs me continuously without ever consuming me,” he admitted in a 1916 letter to his superior, Capuchin Father Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis, who would later attest to Padre Pio’s reception of the stigmata.

With the Epistolary, Padre Pio’s ministry of spiritual counsel continues – and faithful have been eagerly waiting, said Lamonarca.

“I always find people around the (U.S.), when I travel with the relics (of Padre Pio) especially – they’re very demanding (about access to the letters, asking), ‘How can we get all that? It’s difficult to find.’”

Lamonarca told OSV News the Epistolary is one of several “gifts” he wanted to give to the Catholic community to mark the foundation’s upcoming 10th anniversary in April.

But the gifts he has received from his own devotion to the saint have been life-changing, he added.

A native of the Puglia region in southern Italy, Lamonarca – an opera singer and philanthropist – was accustomed to visiting the saint’s shrine there as a child with his mother and brother.

Lamonarca told OSV News that Padre Pio’s spiritual wisdom is summarized in one of the saint’s best-known maxims: pray, hope, and don’t worry.

Along with his letters, Padre Pio’s suffering is instructive, said Lamonarca, adding that he has become “completely different” because of his devotion to the saint.

“I consider being grateful to God for everything that’s happened in my life, bad and good,” said Lamonarca. “Because those bad experiences also bring us to understand and to help us be better people.”

While “in this life, many try to get rid of their sufferings, even the small headaches,” following Padre Pio’s example – which modeled Christ’s own – offers “a way of looking at (suffering) with much more relief,” and bearing it “with much more dignity,” said Lamonarca.

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