Shia LaBeouf's conversion: Let's rejoice over the movement of grace

In August 2022, when "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf revealed during a conversation with Bishop Robert Barron that he had experienced a conversion and begun to attend Mass, I wrote that LaBeouf seemed to me to have undergone a genuine change of heart. He spoke regretfully of the pain and harm he had caused in his life.

More moving still was his testimony about the way that playing Padre Pio in a recent film affected him. "Pio ... saved my life, this is not just a movie or something, and I don't mean that lightly," LaBeouf told Bishop Barron. LaBeouf later told OSV News that he "fell in love with Christ" as part of his preparation for the role.

Many scorned that conversation, and not altogether unreasonably. A 2020 lawsuit by his former partner, British musician FKA Twigs, accuses LaBeouf of physical, mental and emotional abuse.

Knowing his past, social media users doubted LaBeouf's authenticity, even challenging the possibility of a spiritual change of heart altogether. And last August, in the middle of all this discourse, I wrote: "I'd rather believe in the power of conversion and the healing grace of the Holy Spirit than live under the tyranny of constant cynicism and suspicion."

And so it's with that same hope that I share the news of LaBeouf's conversion to the Catholic Church. On Dec. 31, Bishop Barron confirmed LaBeouf at the Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang, California. Surrounded by the Capuchin Franciscan friars that LaBeouf had come to know so well during the production of Abel Ferrara's film "Padre Pio," LaBeouf received the Sacrament of Confirmation. In today's world, where the noise of skepticism and secularism often drowns out the quiet call of spirituality, stories like LaBeouf's shine as beacons of hope.

-- Longing for others to meet Christ

We don't have to canonize LaBeouf. In fact, we'd do well not to ... after all, only the church canonizes saints! We ought to pray for him. We ought to rejoice in the movements of grace that have brought him to the church. We should hope, too, that his story will inspire others.

Our Lord's Gospel message is about the hope of conversion at its very core. Whether we're talking about Shia LaBeouf, politicians, our family members or friends, that's worth remembering. To be a Christian means that, at a fundamental level, we long for others to meet Christ as we have met him and to change.

In order for those we love to change, we have to give them space and allow room for the designs of the Holy Spirit to work. Faith is transformative, but not according to the designs or ideals we have on a purely human level. Faith is transformative according to the plans of Divine Providence, according to God's plans, which so often elude our understanding.

LaBeouf's story encourages us to reflect on our role in supporting converts. Are we, as a community, prepared to welcome them with open arms? Do we offer guidance, understanding and the companionship they need as they navigate this life-changing journey? After all, conversion is not merely a one-time event but a continuous process of growth and integration in the Body of Christ.

And LaBeouf's conversion should prompt us to think about our own conversions. "Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally: not Christ as a mere 'paradigm' or 'value,' but as the living Lord, 'the way, and the truth, and the life' (Jn 14:6)," says Pope St. John Paul II. Jesus Christ calls each of us to know him, to love him and for that knowledge and love to grow ever more complete.

LaBeouf has also shared that he hopes to be ordained a deacon. We'll see whether or not LaBeouf pursues holy orders. But in the meantime, we'll pray that the church will be edified by his conversion.

- Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican Friar of the Province of St. Joseph. He is the editor of Our Sunday Visitor.