As we come upon September, we enter into one of my favorite times of year. Besides that I love autumn and all the things associated with it (the changing leaves, the crisp, cool autumn air, fresh apples, hot apple cider, and pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING!), I especially love this season because there are a number of Feasts in the Church that are very meaningful to me. Feasts such as St. Augustine (whom I talked about last week), St. Mother Teresa of Avila, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, St. Michael and the Archangels, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila and, of course, the great feast days of All Saints and All Souls. I could write a column on each of these and why each of these Saints and feast days are personally very meaningful to me.
Among all of these is also the feast of St. Padre Pio, Sept. 23. Padre Pio was a Franciscan priest in Italy who died in 1968. He was a holy and prayerful man whose life was filled with many mystical and supernatural phenomena, including bilocation, the ability to read souls, and the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ mysteriously become physically manifest in one’s body). Many people sought him for spiritual wisdom and guidance.
But not only did he impact many people and bring many people to deeper faith during his own lifetime, he has continued to do so. Just this past week I saw a headline about a new movie that is being made telling the story of Padre Pio. But more interesting is that the Hollywood actor Shia Lebouf, who plays Padre Pio, shares how this acting role literally transformed his life. The actor Shia Lebouf shares how he did not grow up with faith or religion, and over the past number of years he made a number of poor decisions. His life was a mess, and dealing with his own shame and regret, he hit rock bottom. Describing this point of his life he said, “I didn’t even want to live anymore.”
It was during this low point in his life – both personally and professionally – that he was invited to play Padre Pio in a new movie.
He said, “Yes” not knowing anything about Padre Pio; but as he started learning about him, it literally changed his life. He met with Franciscan friars who taught him how to pray, about the faith, and about Padre Pio. And this so transformed his life that he became Catholic.
“Padre Pio literally saved my life,” he says.
If you would like to hear Shia Lebouf’s full story, Bishop Robert Barron did a full interview with him, which you can find on YouTube and we will also be sharing it on our parish social media pages.
– Fr. Kevin