As a child he inspired a famous actor’s conversion to Catholicism

When Sir Alec Guinness walked in his priestly costume, something happened that would change the course of his life.

The recent news of actor Shia LaBeouf’s conversion to Catholicism after playing Padre Pio made me think of other actors who have played priests or religious.

Who can forget Gregory Peck neither The Keys to Heaven, Rosalind Russell in Trouble with the Angels or Bing Crosby And Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of Santa Maria?

Some actors have even converted to Catholicism after playing clerics or religious in a film. One of the most touching stories about it is that of Sir Alec Guinness.

Most young people know him as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Star Warsbut Sir Alec Guinness he played many other unforgettable roles.

From Shakespearean tragedies (he played Romeo and Hamlet) to war and spy films (The bridge over the River Kwai And Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Guinness has had a long and notable acting career.

It was precisely through his work that God called him to conversion. Guinness was in fact chosen to play Father Brown, the Catholic priest who solves crimes invented by GK Chesterton, and he went to France for filming in an isolated village.

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One evening he was returning to his quarters still wearing his cassock, his “stage dress”. Walking through the French countryside, something simple but extraordinary happened that would change the course of his life, as reported by the Catholic Education Resource Center:

“A child ran up to him and took his hand, starting to walk beside him and chatting happily in French. In the end she greeted him with a cheerful ‘Au revoir, mon père!‘Guinness was struck by the episode, wondering if the simple dress of a priest could inspire such confidence and joy ”.

The actor didn’t speak French, so he didn’t understand what the child was saying to him and couldn’t correct the mistake, but actions speak louder than words, and he was deeply moved by the little boy’s actions. He later wrote:

“As I continued walking, I reflected on the fact that a Church that could inspire such trust in a child by making priests, even when they are unknown, so easily accessible, could not be as intriguing or creepy as is often pointed out. I began to shake off prejudices ”.

One feels a hint of pain when reading his words in the light of the fact that some priests have abused that trust.

However, it is remarkable to see how this child, whose name we will never know, influenced the famous actor in such a consistent way.

Guinness did not immediately convert to Catholicism. He faced some other doubts and witnessed other examples of God’s providence.

One of these was the recovery of her young son, who was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the waist down at age 11. His son became a Catholic before Guinness!Catholic Culture reports:

“The boy’s future was uncertain, and at the end of the working day Guinness began traveling to a small Catholic church on his way home. He decided to make a pact with God: if He had let Matthew heal, he would not have got in the way if the boy had wanted to become a Catholic ”.

“Thankfully Matthew fully recovered, and Guinness and his wife enrolled him in a Jesuit school. At 15, Matthew announced that he wanted to become a Catholic. Guinness kept his pact with God, promptly accepting the boy’s conversion ”.

Slowly, Guinness’ heart continued to melt towards God. He began meeting a Catholic priest, made a retreat at a Trappist abbey, and attended Mass with Grace Kelly while he was working on a film in Los Angeles.

Eventually, Guinness was welcomed into the Catholic Church by the Bishop of Portsmouth. His wife converted shortly thereafter, and the two remained Catholics throughout their lives.

There are strong parallels between the experiences of Guinness and LaBeouf, who converted after playing the role of priests, and we wish all the best to the young Shia.

I find myself wondering what happened to the child who hit Guinness so hard. It is really true that we never know the effect we or our children will have on others.

All we can do is faithfully plant the seeds, trusting that God will take the harvest in a day that we may never be able to see on this earth, but we will see and rejoice in heaven.

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As a child he inspired a famous actor’s conversion to Catholicism