In 2023, actor and comedian Rob Schneider celebrated his first Christmas as a Catholic.

"I think the reason the Catholic Church works for me is it's closest to the actual words of Jesus Christ," the 60-year-old told the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper from Arizona. (Both the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper and the OSV News wire service are owned by the OSV publishing company.)

Schneider spoke about his newfound faith after revealing that he converted to Catholicism in a social media post on Oct. 31. The actor rose to fame as a cast member and writer for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," and is perhaps best known for starring in films including "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" in 1999, "The Hot Chick" in 2002, and "The Benchwarmers" in 2006.

He chatted with Our Sunday Visitor after also starring in a new children's series called "Chip Chilla" and while working on a project about the Shroud of Turin, believed to be Jesus Christ's burial cloth.

Many things, Schneider said, led to his conversion, in particular, his family priest in Phoenix taking him to see Father Chad Ripperger, whom he called "an amazing priest."

"We got to hear him speak for two hours and it was really powerful," Schneider said of the theologian and exorcist based in Colorado. He called Father Ripperger's words reassuring.

"At the same time, it was 'prepare yourself and be vigilant, but not fearful,'" he remembered. "His message at the end was, 'Jesus already won. This is just a mop up mission' -- and I love that. I think it's true."

Examining the Shroud of Turin

While speaking about his conversion, Schneider revealed that he has been working for several years on a script about the Shroud of Turin, a cloth located in Turin, Italy, believed to have wrapped Christ's crucified body and to bear his photographic-negative image.

"It's real," Schneider said. "People try to dismiss it as a medieval relic, but it's impossible. They can't say how -- what was done -- and how it was done in a (photo) negative."

"If it was a medieval thing," he added, "someone would've had to think 500 years later there would be this invention of the photograph to get that negative to a positive."

He wondered at the French Poor Clare nuns who repaired the shroud after it survived a fire in the 16th century: "If you can imagine the dedication of the French nuns who were repairing the cloth of their Lord; how they would make it perfect."

When performing radiocarbon dating in the past, he argued, scientists failed to account for the newer repairs to the shroud, which led them to miscalculate its age.

"Everything described in the Bible, including there were blood samples that they found on the cloth, everything in there is from exactly what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ -- and what the cloth really is, is a receipt," he said. "The receipt of what Christ paid for all of us, the greatest gift ever to mankind."

That realization deeply impacted him. "There's only so many times in life where you can look at something that's irrefutable and go, 'I'm going to ignore that,'" he said.

"I think I just want to be open to the truth and wherever it can bring you," Schneider added.

He hoped that he could make the movie not only because it is inspiring, but also because it could bring other people to the faith.

"Whatever God's calling is for me, I would be honored, and it would be the only gift that I could possibly give back besides raising my kids in the faith," he said.

Creating 'Chip Chilla'

Schneider is also working on a new series for children ages three and older called "Chip Chilla," available through Bentkey, a subscription streaming service from The Daily Wire. The animated show follows a family of homeschooled chinchillas who embark on adventures and learn about literature, history and culture. The show, which premiered in October, embraces the importance of family and loving one another. Schneider does the voice of "Chum Chum," the father. He wanted to support Daily Wire entertainment, he said, and took on the role after seeing a need for wholesome creative content.

"It's been a couple of years already since we've been working on this," he said. "It really was during the height of the pandemic where you had a real shutdown in Hollywood, not just physically but ideologically. And it became kind of the height of where entertainment was indoctrinating people -- and especially the family -- into some ideas that were antithetical to what entertainment, I think, should be."

Leaning in on conversion

He felt the world going to a darker place, Schneider said, pointing to how places like liquor stores and strip clubs remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic while church doors were shuttered.

"I think there's been a real attack on Christianity, a concerted, aggressive attack, especially in the Catholic Church," he said.

In the midst of it all, Schneider spoke about finding and embracing the Catholic faith. "Jesus Christ only lets you wander so far," he said. "I have young children, and I want (them) to have a nice foundation and a beautiful way of seeing the world."

Schneider shared that he was recently present when his good friend, actor Kevin James, said a prayer in Latin. "Luckily, Latin and Spanish are pretty close so I'm able to pick up and start to understand it," Schneider said.

"I think it's important to be close to the actual words of Jesus Christ," he said. "And that's why the Catholic Church, like I said, works for me."