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Actor Shia LaBeouf shares what he loves about the Latin Mass


Screenshot | Bishop Robert Barron | Youtube

Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/05/22

The lead in a new movie about Padre Pio tells Bishop Robert Barron why he has a deep personal passion for the ancient Mass of the Church.

The controversial actor Shia LaBeouf recently hit the headlines for his conversion to the Catholic faith after preparing for the role of Padre Pio. The details of his decision to join the Catholic faith were outlined in a lengthy interview with Bishop Robert Barron, who spent time with the actor during the filming of the upcoming new film, Padre Pio.

While much of the Catholic community welcomed the news of his conversion, many haven’t had time to watch the interview, which is over 1 hour and 20 minutes long. Yet, the conversation between LaBeouf and Barron is very interesting for revealing not only the depth of LaBeouf’s conversion, but also his deep passion for the Latin Mass.

Changes in the traditional Mass have been a bone of contention in the Church. For LaBeouf, however, the Latin Mass has played a big role in his conversion and spiritual growth. Here are some of the reasons he outlines as to why it has had such a profound affect on him.

Mass as performance

Obviously, his profession as an actor has some influence here, but LaBeouf views Mass as a kind of performance, with the priest taking the lead role. When he watched videos of Padre Pio perform Mass in Latin, LaBeouf deeply felt all the emotions of the Mass. He was so inspired by the friar, who would take the faithful through the death and resurrection of Christ with exhaustive passion. This performance helps “activate the laity,” according to LaBeouf.

Bishop Barron responded by referencing Bruce Springsteen, who once stated that his own preparation for the stage came from his childhood experience as an altar boy. The prelate also spoke of Thomas Merton who believed that Mass was “like a ballet” that was the “recapitulation of the drama of Christ’s life.”

The feeling of finding a treasure

LaBeouf states very clearly that “Latin Mass affects me deeply.” He feels that he’s “being let in on something that is very special,” a treasure he has found, rather than someone “trying to sell me something.” When he attends a Mass said in English (the Ordinary Form, or Novus Ordo Mass,) LaBeouf says it “kills my aptitude for it, my suspension of disbelief, and my yearnings to root for it.”

Bishop Barron points out that the Church’s decision to promote Mass in the language of the people was to allow the congregation to be fully aware of what was going on during the liturgy. But LaBeouf, who recognizes that the Church doesn’t want to be “too exclusive,” states that understanding each and every word isn’t important to him personally. “It almost feels more powerful than when I know every single word,” he says.

A window into the sacred

In their conversation, Bishop Barron speaks about the use of incense during Mass. He explains that when it is used, the congregation can’t see what is going on as clearly, which can add to the sense of mystery and sacredness of the liturgy.

As LaBeouf stresses, “to deny some of the senses, it heightens some of the others.” So at the most sacred time during Mass, when we can’t see what is going on clearly, we’re called to perhaps reflect inwardly on the great mysteries.

These different experiences conjure up a sense of connection to God for LaBeouf. In his own personal way he says he comes closer to God by being invited in to witness the wonder of the death and resurrection of Christ at Mass in a catalog of senses that speaks to him.

One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is that there is room for people to find their own way of connecting to God. As Bishop Barron points out, the Catholic Church is like “a house with all these doors that are open, and whatever door works for you, come on in.”

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