Regnum Christi

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Living the Regnum Christi Charism Through Sacred Art

“My art is an extension of my faith, but it wasn’t always that way.”

Artist Nancy Jatcko first met Regnum Christi in 1994, when her husband, Jim, accepted a position with the Atlanta Olympic Committee, two years before the city would host the Olympic Games. At the time, because there were very few Catholic schools in the area, the couple’s pastor, Father Reynolds, directed them to nearby Pinecrest Academy, a Regnum Christi school in Cumming, Georgia, which at the time was being run out of an old elementary school building and only in its second year. But it was here at Pinecrest that the Jatckos were invited to join other parents for RC Days of Reflection and Spiritual Exercises, and through encounters like these, Nancy says, the couples’ lives were changed forever. Through these experiences, their faith grew into one that was fully integrated into every aspect of their lives, and would later give them the strength they needed to endure the many challenges that they would face in their marriage and family, including job losses and changes, multiple miscarriages, a child on the autism spectrum, and a critically ill new-born.

This faith renewal also had an enormous impact on Nancy’s work as an artist. Although she had attended the Chicago Art Institute on scholarship and had been painting on and off ever since, her artistic talent was something that Nancy feels she had often taken for granted. But after she attended her first Spiritual Exercises, led by Fr. John Hopkins, LC, Nancy gradually began to connect her artistic gifts to her newly renewed Catholic faith.

However, it wasn’t until her present pastor, Fr. Jeffrey Goekner, commissioned Nancy to create a series of paintings for the parish that she finally began to realize the profoundly impactful and evangelizing potential of the union of art and faith.

In 2018, Fr. Jeffrey, pastor of St. Boniface Church in Edwardsville, Illinois, had seen a portrait that Nancy had created of St. Katharine Drexel, and had commissioned her to paint a series of four paintings of the church’s patron and namesake to celebrate the parish’s jubilee the following year. These four paintings were dedicated and blessed for veneration on the Feast of St. Boniface on June 5th. Beside the four paintings of St. Boniface, Fr. Jeff also commissioned five more individual paintings of several other saints important to the parish, including St. Clare, St. Cecilia, Pope St. John Paul II, Venerable Father Augustine Tolton, and Blessed Father Michael McGivney, all of which were dedicated and blessed for veneration by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.

 

The opportunity to create these nine portraits opened up in Nancy a new relationship between her faith and her creative gifts, and as an artist, incorporating her artwork and other visual elements into her meditation has had a great influence on her prayer and spiritual life:

“When I first heard Fr. John Hopkins talk about ‘composition of place’ during prayer, visually placing yourself in the scene of the Gospel, this was a natural concept for me to grasp. My meditation on scripture has always been a form of Visio Divina in a sense – when I pray, my mind is presented with images. I’ve learned to trust those images as God’s voice over the years.”

Nancy’s artwork recently appeared in the July edition of Catholic Times, a magazine published out of the diocese of Springfield, Illinois. The magazine, in a feature titled “For the Love of God & Art,” presented four local artists whose artwork in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, and stained glass, has found a permanent home in their parishes. Three of Nancy’s portraits that now hang in her parish of St. Boniface appear in the article, including her portrait of St. Clare, which graces the cover.

Nancy is currently a Regnum Christi member at St. Boniface in Edwardsville, where, with the encouragement of her pastor, Fr. Jeff, and support from Legionary priest, Fr. Peter Krezalek, LC, she has started an Encounter with Christ group that meets in the parish center. She is also a member of the Diocesan Women’s Ministry Team and, with her husband, serves on her parish’s marriage mentoring team. She has also chaired her local Catholic high school building campaign, a role which was inspired by her Regnum Christi experience in Atlanta when she served on Pinecrest Academy Parents’ Association. “My Regnum Christi formation has allowed me to not only grow in faith, but also to pass it on to those around me in whatever way God asks, whether it’s raising funds for Catholic education, accompanying couples preparing for marriage, sharing the transformative experience of Regnum Christi with other women, or creating sacred art.”

To view more of Nancy’s artwork, you can find her at Paintings by Nancy Jatcko on Facebook. You can also read more about her portrait of Venerable Father Augustine Tolton in the February 2022 edition of February 2022 edition of Catholic Times.

 

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Pilgrimage to the Museum: Man’s Search for God through Art and Time

Stephen Auth has always had a deep interest in art and the search for beauty. While an undergraduate majoring in history and economics at Princeton, Steve jumped at the opportunity to take as many art history classes as the university had to offer. For the next forty years, Steve’s investment business took him all over the world, and on his travels, one of the first things he did in any city he landed was to visit the art museums. On occasional Friday nights, he and his wife, Evelyn, gave tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to friends who were visiting them in New York City.

In 2002, Steve experienced a serious health event, and received a visit from Fr. John Connor, LC. Upon receiving the Sacrament of the Sick and speaking with Fr. John, Steve resolved that if he survived, he would refocus the use of his talents for the glory of God. It was during one of his and Evelyn’s tours of the MET that Steve began to understand one of the ways in which God was calling him to redirect his talents toward the good of the Church. Standing before a painting by Rembrandt called “The Toilet of Bathsheba,” which Steve had seen many times before, he suddenly saw the piece with a new perspective, with the eyes of faith. For Steve, it was like a light came on, and he and Evelyn began to reapproach the art with which they had become so familiar over the years with this new spiritual perspective, one that posits that all artists, in striving for beauty, are, ultimately, seeking God.

In 2010, Steve and Evelyn reconfigured their MET tour, and enlisted Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, to help. “When we redid the entire tour with the presumption that all of us are seeking God, a gripping narrative began to emerge over 5000 years, a salvation history,” says Steve. “The tour then became a pilgrimage, a journey of pursuing God through beauty, and in the moments where you begin to see the artist come close to finding God, and the moments when the artist loses him, you’re feeling your own self being pulled toward God.”

Soon, Steve and Evelyn were giving several MET tours a year, and the list of those wishing to join in was getting longer. Friends began urging the couple to convert their unique pilgrimage experience to the form of a book so that more people could take advantage of this tour through history and through art. When the pandemic provided Steve with unexpected free time in his social calendar, he did just that, and his book Pilgrimage Through the Museum: Man’s Search for God Through Art and Time has recently been published by Sophia Institute Press.

Pilgrimage Through the Museum is a spiritual tour through the MET, working from the presumption that all art is a search for the creator, who is beauty itself. The tour travels from Ancient Egypt, through Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe, to the rise of atheism in the early 1800s and beyond, exploring the common themes that start to emerge through 5000 years of history. Above all, the book is a story of humankind’s search for the creator of beauty, and what happens when we lose track of the very thing that we are seeking.

But for Steve, the MET tours, the book, and the art itself, provides more than a history or a narrative to passively observe – art can also be a means of evangelization, through which true conversion can take place. And Steve is no stranger to evangelization; he is the author of The Missionary of Wall Street: From Managing Money to Saving Souls on the Streets of New York, which tells the story of his radical mission of evangelization in downtown Manhattan. For Steve, Pilgrimage Through the Museum, and art itself, is just another way to bring others into an encounter with God’s love and mercy:

“Art is a form of evangelization for a culture that doesn’t want to talk about God. It’s a lighter approach, a common ground to meet people at, because everyone appreciates art, everyone appreciates beauty. The book itself is a form of evangelization, a gentle invitation to think about what the art is really about, which is God, and our search for him through beauty.”

Steve has spent his career on Wall Street, and has worked for Federated Investors for over 20 years; he currently serves as executive vice president and a chief investment officer of Federated Global Equities. As well, both Steve and Evelyn are deeply involved in their Regnum Christi vocation. Steve is on the board of Lumen Institute, and was instrumental in starting Lumen teams in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Naples, Florida. Evelyn is on the Board of Directors at both Divine Mercy University and Catholic World Mission. They have also participated in missions in Mexico, and have led the New York City street mission for 10 years.

Steve and Evelyn will be touring the country speaking about Pilgrimage Through the Museum: to schedule a book signing or a talk on art and spirituality in your section, contact Mary Soressi at [email protected]. You can order Pilgrimage to the Museum, for yourself or as a Regnum Christi team book study, as well as Steve’s first book Missionary of Wall Street, through Sophia Press Institute. Pilgrimage Through the Museum is also available to purchase at the MET gift shop. The book is co-authored by Evelyn Auth and Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, and all author proceeds of the book go towards the formation of Legionary priests at the seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.

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“Altogether Beautiful” Artists’ Retreat Explores the Connection between Art and Theology

“Art is the Way of Beauty. It has a special way of piercing our hearts in order to receive grace.”

These are the words of Holly Schapker, a Cincinnati artist who has been working closely with Fr. Thomas Flynn, LC, and Called to Create, an initiative established in the Ohio Valley area by artist and educator, Laura Kline, and designed to spiritually nurture Catholic artists and encourage them to use their creative gifts as a means of sharing God’s truth and love through their artwork.

One of the many offerings of the Called to Create apostolate is the annual artists’ retreat, which provides the space for artists to create in a way that collaborates with the Holy Spirit while exploring a different spiritual theme each year. Last November, in response to 2021 being declared by Pope Francis The Year of St. Joseph, the Called to Create group decided to delve into what St. Joseph, who was a craftsman and artisan himself, could mean to them as artists. At the retreat, Holly shared the process that went into her creation of an oil painting of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus, while Fr. Thomas spoke on the theme of the fatherhood of St. Joseph, demonstrating to the participants the important and profound connection between art and theology.

Indeed, for Holly, her Catholic spirituality and the creative process are closely linked. “My paintings depict my quest for truth, goodness, and beauty. Before my easel, I may practise lectio divina meditation or a centering prayer;

Joseph and Jesus by Holly Schapker

I intend to relinquish my personal control of the brush to God, which results in unexpected gifts that I humbly receive.” During the November retreat, Holly and Fr. Thomas collaborated on prayers, meditations, and the overall structure of the weekend. Fr. Thomas created his own portrait of St. Joseph and Jesus along with the other artists, and upon Holly’s request, allowed her to paint on his canvas. “I enjoyed working with him, and in the process, we created a new friendship as well as a new piece of art!”

It was the Associates Degree in Fine Arts that he received during his time spent at the Legionary Novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut that initially inspired in Fr. Thomas not only an interest and appreciation for art, but also a zeal to reach out to and collaborate with artists like Holly and the Called to Create group. “I have always been very interested in the relationship between theology and art, and how my work as a theologian can help artists in the shaping of their work, and how it can help spread the faith,” says Fr. Thomas who, along with ministering to local artists in the Ohio Valley, serves as the chaplain to the Women’s Regnum Christi Section in the Greater Cincinnati area, the chaplain to the Consecrated Women, and the assistant chaplain to the Regnum Christi Men’s Section.

Debbie Graviss, a Kentucky artist who attended the St. Joseph retreat, shares the fruits from her own retreat experience: “It is so encouraging to be with other artists and share in the creative process together, and I found Fr. Thomas’ presence and support, and especially his participation as an artist, a real comfort. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is moving through art in and new and powerful way, and I’m finding in my own professional art studio and practice that art is a gateway into healing and evangelization with people who would otherwise not step into a church.”Called to Create member, Karrie King, attended her first retreat in 2015, and has attended every retreat since then, including the virtual retreat held in the fall of 2020; the artist retreats provide a yearly spark for her artistic and spiritual progress and well-being. But for Karrie, and many other Called to Create members from Northwest Ohio who make the annual pilgrimage south to the retreat, once a year simply did not feel like enough. “It left us thirsting for more of the marriage of art and spirituality!”

Together with her aunt, Lucille Smith, who has attended every Called to Create retreat since the first one held in 2014, Karrie decided to organize a monthly gathering, called “Paint and Pray,” with artists from her parish and the neighbouring parish. The group, which started with six individuals and has now grown to nearly 20, meets once a month to create art and pray the rosary together. And when even meeting once a month was not often enough, the group started gathering weekly for plein-air painting sessions (called “Van Go”) at local sites or a member’s home, inviting people of all faiths to join them in praising God through the creation of art.

The newest development that has stemmed from these art groups and, initially, the Called to Create retreats, is an art gallery that the group established at their church of Holy Trinity Parish in Assumption, Ohio. The group curates spiritual exhibits that are displayed in the St. Joseph Commons Gallery, and are changed every two to three months. Some of the exhibit themes include “The Many Faces of Jesus,” “All Saints,” “Mary Gardens: A Celebration of God’s Creation,” and “Building God’s Kingdom,” which was a student project and parish photography exhibit that presented images of the church and the parish grounds. The gallery also features an exhibit entitled “Called to Create,” where participants display the artwork they created while on the annual artists’ retreat. The current exhibit on display, called “Building God’ Kingdom,” features architecturally inspired artwork accompanied by related passages from Scripture.

“As you can see, the Called to Create Catholic Artists’ Retreat has inspired many additional art experiences for our local group of artists, and Laura Kline lit a fire when she started this series of retreats,” says Karrie. “May all future Called to Create retreats continue to enkindle a fire in both the artists and those who are drawn closer to God through their art!”

The theme for this year’s upcoming retreat, to be held November 3-6, 2022, is “Altogether Beautiful,” inspired by a newly discovered retreat for artists written by John Paul II in the late 1960s. The November retreat will be one of the first ever to utilize this work by John Paul II and directly experience the ideas he wanted to convey to artists about the power of beauty to draw people to God. Bill Donaghy, from the Theology of the Body Institute, will be the artist presenter, and Eric Genuis, a well-known concert pianist and Regnum Christi member, will perform for the retreatants and the public on Saturday night. For more information about registering, volunteering, or promoting the retreat, or for attending the public portions of the event, please email [email protected].

Currently, Holly Schapker is working on the Stations of the Cross for a church on the west side of Cincinnati. She also has an exhibit based on Ignatian Spirituality which will be showing at St. Francis Xavier Church until July 31. You can check out her artwork on her website at hollyschapker.com.

 

 

 

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Art for God: Fr. Joseph Tham explores the harmony between heaven and humanity in his newest book

For Fr. Joseph Tham, LC, growing up in Hong Kong – where Christianity was, and still is, a minority religion trailing well behind Chinese folk spiritualities, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism – heightened his sense of belonging to the Catholic Church and his desire to respond to his baptismal call. It was this environment that allowed him to become more conscious of what it means to be a Catholic, more so than if he had been brought up in a predominantly Christian country. As a result, he was very much aware from a young age of the need to do something for Christ in his life.

When he was 15 years, old, Fr. Joseph immigrated with his family to Canada, and after high school, he began to pursue a science degree in mathematics, ultimately graduating from medical school and becoming a general practitioner. While still in medical school, Fr. Joseph felt a strong call to serve the suffering, in imitation of the God who had suffered for him. As a medical student, he began going on medical missions to Tanzania, Africa, and planned to become a medical missionary.

After graduation, Fr. Joseph worked as a general practitioner for four years, and was relatively satisfied with his medical career and the lifestyle that accompanied it, but he couldn’t help but wonder if God was asking something more. While treating the sick, it became apparent to Fr. Joseph that many of his patients were in need of not just physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. Fr. Joseph felt called to step away from his practice to follow God’s call, but the decision wasn’t easy. “I felt like the rich young man in the Gospel when I felt God’s call to sell all and follow him.”

In March of 1994, Fr. Joseph made a visit to the Legionary seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, and it was then and there, during celebrations of the Feast of St. Joseph, that he decided to end his practice, tie up any loose ends, and attend the summer candidacy program in June. As the only son in his Chinese family, Fr. Joseph was expected to care for his parents in their old age and to carry on the family name, so his decision to become a priest was met with great resistance, particularly from his father.

Despite his family’s opposition, and his own temptations to return to his medical practice, Fr. Joseph was ordained a Legionary priest in 2004. Because of his background in medicine, he began to study bioethics, and in 2007 he obtained his PhD at Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. Since then, he has taught bioethics in Rome as well as at the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in Hong Kong. He also presents at conferences and courses, and is a prolific writer and editor of numerous articles and books on the topic of bioethics, and the important harmony that exists between the divine and the human.

""However, Fr. Joseph has taken an entirely new approach to presenting that harmony between heaven, earth, and humanity in his newest book, Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections. Besides being a former medical doctor, a Legionary priest, and a professor of bioethics, Fr. Joseph is also a sensitive artist of Chinese calligraphy, seals, and watercolor paintings. His new book explores the compatibility of the two cultures within which he was raised: Chinese tradition (including Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism) and Christianity and Catholicism.

One of the best examples of this compatibility is illustrated in a seal carving that Fr. Joseph created called “The Harmony Seal,” which depicts the incarnation of God. Chinese seals, typically carved out of stone and then dipped in red ink, have been used for over 2200 years to stamp important documents, contracts, and artwork, and have now become pieces of art in their own right. In Art for God, Fr. Joseph explains the significance of “The Harmony Seal”:

"" The Harmony Seal by Fr. Joseph Tham, LC

“The symbolism of this seal carving is taken from a traditional round shape design. The ancient Chinese words for ‘Heaven’ and ‘Man’ have the same root that looks like a stick figure of a human being. This design emphasizes that from Heaven, God becomes man in his incarnation. The kneeling posture of man represents God’s kenosis, the self-emptying of Jesus. When you look carefully, the three round dots symbolize the mystery in the Trinity. The partition of the seal is in the shape of a cross, reminding us that we are reconciled to God through the Paschal mystery. The circle is a symbol of unity and harmony. The circular seal is the size of the communion bread, the Eucharistic host that is the spiritual food that sustains us in our journey towards this ideal of universal harmony.”

“The Harmony Seal” was created by Fr. Joseph in the early months of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and following months of social unrest in Hong Kong; for Fr. Tham, the division caused by these events demonstrated a need for reconciliation with nature and with God, and a return to harmony. He recently presented this and other pieces from his book in an exhibition at the Fringe Club, a contemporary art space in Hong Kong, in January of 2022.

""For Fr. Joseph, the art that he creates is always a representation of his relationship with God, and his book, Art for God, is a reflection of his artistic journey of painting, calligraphy, and seal-carving, and how his art informs and is informed by his faith. The book, therefore, is not simply a collection of art pieces, of which there are plenty, but also a spiritual diary; each creation is accompanied by a reflection on the inspiration or message behind the piece. And the thread that runs throughout all the art pieces and their accompanying reflections is one that runs throughout Fr. Joseph’s entire life: a story of how the influence of Chinese literature, poetry, philosophy, and spirituality resonates and dialogues harmoniously with his Christian faith.

Fr. Joseph believes that one the greatest ethical problems in today’s culture is the desire to own, consume, and to dominate, rather than to seek harmony with all things. “It is my prayer and my hope,” says Fr. Joseph, “that this book will elevate the spirit and touch that which is transcendent, that which is beyond, that which is our heavenly home, and that which is God.”

You can find out more about Fr. Joseph’s exhibit and his book Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections here, and purchase his book, which is written in both English and Chinese, at creationhub.ltd.

 

 

 

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The Connection Between Art & Mission: Cécile Martin-Houlgatte

Cécile Martin-Houlgatte, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi celebrating her 30th anniversary of consecration,  is an artist who gives spiritual accompaniment to artists, writers, and singers, and also holds expositions of her own paintings and photographs. She is currently the director of her community in Rome and studies Theology of the Arts at the Catholic University of Paris.

As a Consecrated Woman, where did your interest in art come from?

Before consecrating myself to God I studied the history of contemporary art in Paris and I also did some painting. A few years ago, a woman in New York invited me to paint something for a gala dinner to help raise money for a charity in Cheshire, CT. So, after 25 years I returned to painting and, this time, I did it for God and the painting sold. After that other individuals asked me for the same painting of the Sacred Heart. I was very impressed by the power and reach of this painting when it was in the offices and homes of people on Wall Street. I reflected on this and realized that this was not just my private work. I was doing something missionary in nature, and I had to reflect to see if God wanted me to continue doing something more in this field.

After working in the United States I was in Paris, France for three years. There, my interest and joy at being in the world of the arts came back to life. Several circumstances confirmed this pastoral approach. One was very unexpected. One day during Christmas time I was visiting a prison. During the conversation with the inmates, one came up to me and asked me what I did. I said to him, “I am a missionary.” He told me that he didn’t think I could be a missionary. I asked him “why not?” He answered, “when I saw you come in to mass and now as we are speaking only one word comes to mind – art.” Yes, this was for me one of the many moments when God confirmed that perhaps I should continue serving the Church by working for the Evangelization of Culture, by being a “missionary of the arts.” Little by little several encounters continued to confirm this, as well as discernment in prayer and through my directors.

What do you currently do in regard to art?

Currently I:

  • Offer spiritual accompaniment to artists or individuals who work in the world of the arts.
  • Give testimonies about my commitment to God and the arts.
  • Paint and take photographs that are sometimes in exhibitions or that can be found on my website.
  • Seek to respond to whatever need or request comes to me. I received invitations to ecumenical meetings on beauty and art, invitations to give my testimony on the radio, opportunities to accompany artists, etc.

What can you tell us about your private audience with Pope Francis and the “Diakonia of Beauty”?

On February 17th Pope Francis had a private audience with a French group called the “Diakonia of Beauty” on its 10th anniversary. I was able to be with them since I know this group of artists. It was a very intimate encounter where the Holy Father was very present to each person from the beginning to the end, with a look and a smile of goodness that marked each one of us. He offered us very motivating words and invited us to “encourage our contemporaries to follow the via pulchritudinis (Way of beauty).” He reminded us that the Sacred Scriptures often speak of the beauty of the universe which points to the Beauty of the Creator by analogy. The Scriptures remind us that each one of us is called by vocation to be an instrument and guardian of beauty.

Afterwards, each of us had the opportunity to greet him; it was an unforgettable moment.

What did you experience, what stayed with you after that encounter?

First of all, the Holy Father’s attitude of openness greatly impressed me. From the beginning to the end of the encounter he radiated goodness, openness and serene joy. His words also motivated me to continue on this path of living and promoting the dialogue between beauty and faith, though it is not always easy. To continue evangelizing in the culture of art, in the first place by allowing myself to be evangelized through this medium.

Several of the Pope’s ideas keep turning about in my mind and heart. Beauty has the ability to create communion between God, man, and creation, between past, present, and future. It attracts people from different and distant places to the same place and to the same vision, even people of different languages. Have you seen the incredible communion that a concert often creates? Or a theatrical performance? An art expo? It is something wonderful! This really motivates me. Through my poor collaboration in the evangelization of Culture by my apostolate of the arts, I hope, God willing, to be able to contribute in some small way to the encounter of people among each other and with our God, who seeks only to love them infinitely and to receive their love, through the experience of Beauty.

The Pope also told us that the Church counts on us today to help our brothers and sisters to have a tender and compassionate heart, a renewed gaze of love toward the world and toward others.

He emphasized that beauty is the source of joy because it puts us in touch with Divine Goodness. This seems to be to very important… and necessary.

What is your hope for the evangelization of culture through art? 

First, the Church is making many efforts to rebuild the relationship with the world of contemporary art. For example, the Holy See has spent several years at the Biennale de Venecia, a cultural institution for contemporary art, asking artists to express themes of the faith with very modern techniques and very contemporary styles. I hope to be able to support these efforts. I hope not to be an obstacle to what God is doing in this pastoral approach to beauty and art, and so to help faith and art to continue engaging and supporting one another. Second, I hope that this fosters joy and peace in many people. Lastly and above all, I hope that through the arts and through beauty Christ’s face will be revealed, who is Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

You can view Cécile’s art on her website and in this video of her expositions.

This article is a translation of the Spanish original published by the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi.

Link to Spanish Original

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Art and Contemplation: Awakening the Contemplative Gaze to the Beauty of God

As a young woman, Gaetane Auger, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life: she planned to attend L’École des Arts Décoratifs, a renowned art school in Paris, and spend her life as a professional artist living in Paris.

But God had other plans.

In 2002, Gaetane served a year as an RC Missionary during which time she continually felt a call to a life dedicated not to art as she had always planned, but to the service of others. “I was trying to convince God during my missionary year that it was really important for me to go back and study, and that I would be able to evangelize my friend group,” says Gaetane, “but it was during a conversation with one of my friends that God’s plans were made clear to me. She was describing this life we had been dreaming of – how we were going to be artists living in Paris, having our own studio, how life would be. And I suddenly realized that I couldn’t imagine my life if it wasn’t to be given to others. That’s when I realized that my call to consecrated life was stronger than my call to painting.”

In fact, in saying ‘yes’ to the consecrated life, Gaetane was fully prepared to give up painting altogether. One day in prayer, upon reading Christ’s words to Peter “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15), Gaetane felt moved to detach completely from her previous dreams of becoming an artist and, although it was difficult, made the decision to give away all her art supplies. Again, God had other plans for Gaetane.

Throughout her consecrated life, Gaetane never lost her passion for painting. When she was on missions abroad, she used whatever materials she could find to attempt to capture the beauty around her; on her first to mission to Chile, she painted the views of lakes and volcanoes, the people on their bikes and the colorful ponchos, on scraps of papers and cardboard that she had on hand. Then, while working in a particularly intense apostolate in 2017, Gaetane felt the desire – and the need – to paint. “I needed an outlet, so painting became something that helped me,” says Gaetane. For this reason, she always tries to take time out of her busy schedule – she is the Community Director for the consecrated women in Atlanta and is in charge of Family Life for Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Georgia, and recently started helping with Lumen Institute – to paint. Indeed, for Gaetane, painting is much more than simply a hobby – rather, it is an act of contemplation. And when she takes time to paint, usually on Sundays, during retreats, or for just a moment in the evening at the end of a long day (she’s learned not to wait for the “perfect moment to paint,” because that perfect moment may never come!), Gaetane puts on quiet music and sets aside all other distractions so that she can fully enter into an attitude of contemplation and receptivity of the presence of God. 

As she began to paint more and more, Gaetane realized that God, as the great gift-giver that he is, was returning to her the artistic gift that she had freely surrendered to him. She began painting little cards to give to family, friends, and her community (Gaetane says that for her, painting is a kind of love language), and a recipient of one her cards asked her if she would consider leading a Prayer and Painting Workshop. After this event, Gaetane, with the encouragement of Regnum Christi section director Kathleen Conklin and the help of her community, hosted an art show during a garden party at the home of the consecrated women in Atlanta where she exhibited 10 paintings highlighting the beauty of religious and consecrated life. At the event, Gaetane also offered for sale five different greeting cards featuring prints of her original artwork; the cards sold out within ten days, and the demand for more cards hasn’t stopped. In response to this interest in her work, in August of this year Gaetane opened what she calls her “petite boutique d’art,” an online shop called Art & Contemplation where her greeting cards can be purchased. It may not be the studio in Paris that she dreamed of having as a young woman, but to Gaetane, Art & Contemplation is so much more: a Spirit-driveninspiration that allows her to share her God-given gifts as a way to evangelize through beauty and art. Art & Contemplation now features 13 unique greeting cards, and Gaetane hopes to add products like art prints and prayer journals in the near future. And Gaetane is planning a second art exhibit in February of 2022 on the World Day for Consecrated Life where she will share the rest of her series she created on the theme of consecrated life, and more. She also hopes to offer more Prayer & Painting

Workshops, where women can help each other to pause to pray and paint and learn more about the art of Christian contemplation. “When we paint, something happens in our hearts – we can reconnect with ourselves again, reconnect with God, and then be able to give of ourselves better,” says Gaetane. “Painting allows us to take the time to stop and look, to look again, and to be still.”

For Gaetane, this new initiative has been a team effort – over the past year since Art & Contemplation began, Gaetane’s community has offered her encouragement, feedback and advice, help with framing and presenting her pieces, and the push she needed to move her mission and ministry forward. All proceeds of Art & Contemplation go to support the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, but to Gaetane, it’s much more than simply a fundraiser. “The greeting cards are a way to make myself and my community present in these special moments in the lives of the families we serve,” says Gaetane. “It’s a little mission, and I’m so happy to see how people have loved them and are asking for more.”

Over the few short months since Gaetane first felt called to use her artistic gifts in service of the Church in a more far-reaching way, Art & Contemplation has grown much more than she ever could have imagined. She asks for the prayers of the Regnum Christi family that the Holy Spirit continues to guide her initiative as she keeps discerning how God is calling her to use the gifts he has given her. “I believe that what God is putting on my heart, and where he has been not just leading me but pushing me, is a new apostolate in which we can live out the charism of Regnum Christi – to evangelize and to bring people to encounter God,” says Gaëtane. “This is one more creative way that can touch hearts through beauty and art, so I’m excited to discover what God has in store for the future!”

Visit Gaetane’s “petite boutique d’art,” Art & Contemplation, at artcontemplation.com to view and purchase the greeting cards featuring her original artwork, to learn more about her workshops, and to find out about upcoming art shows and events. You can also become a Patron and make a donation to support this new apostolate of art and beauty. All proceeds go to the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi – you can meet Gaetane’s community in Atlanta here!

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Called to Create: Putting the “Divine Spark” at the Service of the Church

Artist and educator, Laura Kline, always had a vision of combining her God-given creative talents with her Catholic faith. Whether it was as an art teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels, or as the activities director for the elderly residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor community in her home town of Louisville, Kentucky, Laura often sought ways to merge the visual arts with concepts of spirituality, exploring how art can inform faith, and vice versa.

But it wasn’t until Laura became a member of Regnum Christi in January of 2000, that this idea of marrying art and faith took real shape in her life; in fact, it was during the incorporation ceremony itself that Laura felt God calling her to use her artistic talents to serve him in a new and creative way. When the Legionary priest leading the ceremony, Father Matthew Von Smoorenburg, LC, encouraged the newly incorporated Regnum Christi members to place their natural gifts at the service of the Church, Laura took his words immediately to heart. “Father Matthew made it very clear that we were to use our God-given talents to create new ways to reach the world with the Good News that Jesus Christ wants an individual relationship with us all.” It was in this moment that Laura was first inspired to start an apostolate for artists.

Shortly after her incorporation, Laura came across Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” and one particular line struck her like a lightning bolt, confirming her idea to form a new apostolate for artists like herself:

“Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation – as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on – feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it to the service of their neighbor and of humanity as a whole.”

“Letter to Artists,” Pope John Paul II

“I took this to mean that I was to create a group of artists who would put to Godly use their artistic talents,” says Laura, who originally named the apostolate Divine Spark, in honor of the words of Pope John Paul II that had originally inspired her.

In 2002, working with the encouragement and approval of Father Eamon Kelly, LC, Laura began building what would eventually become Called to Create, an apostolate dedicated to Catholic visual artists who desire to live their vocation to art as a response to God’s invitation to discover and share the beauty they find in creation. “The needs that are met by this apostolate are mainly the spiritual support for the artists and the camaraderie amongst like-minded artists to become or to continue to be a beacon for Christ and his Church in this society,” says Laura.

That spiritual support and formation is a vital part of Called to Create; members of the apostolate feel called to evangelize through their art, but know that in order to carry on this evangelistic mission, they themselves must be continually nourished by prayer and the sacraments and, importantly, as artists, by the spiritual contemplation of beauty. For this reason, Called to Create members join together in small groups for a monthly meeting that combines the key elements of prayer (such as a Gospel reflection), community, and of course, creativity.

Another Legionary priest, Father John Bullock, LC, has been instrumental in providing spiritual support and encouragement; in 2012, he came on board as Spiritual Director and Retreat Master for the Called to Create apostolate. “His wisdom and insights as to how to reach out to others have been invaluable to me and to our growing numbers,” says Laura. The Called to Create apostolate now has four active chapters across Kentucky and Ohio, which come together annually for a spiritual retreat at the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, Ohio. Here, participants are encouraged by professional artists to explore a variety of artistic styles and media, around a particular spiritual theme. They are then expected to take the inspirations that they received during the retreat – both spiritual and artistic – back to their local chapters and communities.

At the heart of the Called to Create apostolate is the call to evangelization; the members are not only nurtured in their own faith, but also then encouraged to share that faith with others, by reflecting God’s truth and beauty through their art. “The purpose of the apostolate is to bring artists to see their role as evangelizers in society, and to help the Church in any way possible, through the arts,” says Laura. “We all continue to create new ways of reaching out.” Some of those initiatives have included undertaking special art commissions, creating exhibit pieces to enhance particular feast days in the local parish (such as Divine Mercy Sunday, or the Feast of the Sacred Heart), hosting field trips to museums and cathedrals, sponsoring a student artist exhibit that featured a pro-life theme, and doing live painting demonstrations during parish talks and retreats. They’ve also led workshops for adults, held in-home painting parties for couples, and hosted events for the whole family (at one recent Parish Family Night, Called to Create members taught families how to create a family crest).

The apostolate also works with youth in its “Junior League,” where young, budding artists are paired with an adult mentor. Most recently, the Junior League held a workshop on the theme of hope, based on Romans 6, with the young participants creating paintings using the anchor, the historical icon of hope, as their inspiration.

There is one Called to Create initiative that is especially close to Laura’s heart; her group created twelve original paintings from photographs that she and her husband had taken in Nicaragua, where her son, Father Dismas Kline, CFR, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, is currently stationed. In order to provide financial support for the many apostolates that the Nicaraguan Franciscans are involved in, the group sold notecards of the artwork, and held an online auction for the twelve original pieces. At the annual Called to Create retreat last October, when the group shared the work that they had been doing for the Franciscans, the retreat participants spontaneously took up a collection amongst themselves and gave it to Laura to send to Nicaragua. “I was overwhelmed with their generosity and zeal for the faith,” says Laura. “God is good… all the time!”

One popular activity that the group hopes to be hosting a lot more of these days is plein air painting; typically, participants meet for Mass and then head out for an outdoor painting session. “This may be happening more and more with the social distancing we have all had to adhere to,” says Laura. Plans for the annual retreat in October are underway, and while organizers are hoping that participants can attend in person, they’re also making plans for an online format if necessary.

For Laura, seeing the fruits of her vision of combining her love for art with her zeal for her faith has drawn her closer to God, and even enriched her other ministry: she also serves as a Spiritual Guide for Regnum Christi. “My own faith has been enhanced throughout this whole process by the joy I see on the faces of the artists as they employ the talents God has given them to spread His kingdom,” says Laura. “I’m energized and spurred on to the next creative idea and never tire of finding ways to encourage others to find what it is that God is calling them to.”

To find out more about the Called to Create apostolate, visit them on Facebook, or email [email protected].

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Discovering the Beauty of Marriage at the MET

Fr. Jason Smith, LC, is convinced that an essential part of being a missionary is communicating the joy of the Gospel outside of a church environment.  He has an eye for art and a passion for evangelization, which he shares with the world through Instagram, where his almost18,000 followers are nourished by his elegant blending of photography and short written meditations.

 

Part of Fr. Jason’s ministry is his involvement with Cana Uncorked, an evangelization project that Regnum Christi operates in collaboration with the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral in SoHo.  The program was started by Regnum Christi members Rob and Kristen Chmiel, and a team of newly-wed graduates of their Three to Get Married marriage prep program, as a way to create a community of newly married couples who could continue to grow in their faith together.

Since he lives in the New York City area, he is always looking for ways to bring Christ and the Catholic faith into the city. He shares that since he has the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in his “backyard” so to speak, it was only natural for him to find a way to introduce people to Christ by bringing them there.

Fr. Jason gives Instagram followers a taste of the “Marriage at the MET” tour

 

One of the Cana Uncorked events is a couples tour of the MET, led by Fr. Jason, which focuses on the good, true and beautiful aspects of marriage that can be found in the art there.   Fr. Jason tells us, “Regarding the tour itself, I used some of my favorite paintings at the MET and make the connection to different aspects of marriage. Parallels are easy to find once I let my imagination run a little.”

 

 

 

 

Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage (public domain)

Giving a couple of examples of how he does this, Fr.  Jason shares,  “For example, with this painting of Joan of Arc, one point I emphasized is the contrast between the solidity and inner strength with which St Joan is painted and the impressionistic style with which the three saints behind her are painted, blending into the trees in the background.

The lesson I see here is that many times faith inspires us to move forward in love but we ourselves are the ones who need to take the steps, God is not going to do it for us, and that takes a lot of inner strength, which I see in this depiction of Joan—even more than if she had been painted in a suit of armor.

I closed this little part of my reflection with a story that a young couple had told me. They had just come home with their first newborn, put the baby in the crib, and were standing there together, looked at each other and at the baby and said to each other, now what do we do? They were having their Joan of Arc moment.”

The Weeders by Jules Breton (public domain)

“Another painting we reflected on, the Weeders, speaks to me of the of the importance of stopping to lift our gaze to what is good, noble, just, and beautiful in our life, something that is remarkably hard to do, as only one of the women in the painting is doing it.

To learn to stop in a city that never sleeps and is always working is essential to a good marriage. When we see a painting like this it hits a chord deep within of a desire to be captivated by delight in what is most important in life.”

 

 

One marriage at a time, Fr. Jason is encouraging New Yorkers, in the words of St. Paul, to see “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– [and] think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)

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Priesthood through the Lens of Fr. Brett Taira, L.C.

Fr. Brett Taira, L.C., was ordained a priest on December 10, 2016.  His story has been unique from the beginning of his call, up to and including the way he exercises his ministry today.  Born in Santa Barbara, CA, and raised Buddhist, he converted to Catholicism in 2002. In 2004 he received a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Rice University in Houston. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Legionaries of Christ. One year ago, he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

Fr. Brett is currently serving as the Local Regnum Christi Director in Chicago.  He brings some unique gifts to his ministry, especially as a millennial convert who has grown up in the current culture with a God-given talent for photography.  These two attributes give him an insight into the needs for evangelization of this generation, and the capacity to bring Christ to people in a powerful way.

 

We asked him to answer a few questions through the lens of a priest.

 

What ignited your passion for photography?

What makes photography special is not its ability to reproduce a given reality, but rather its ability to tell the story of the meaning of reality. For example, a security camera recording 24/7 can give a faithful reproduction of recorded events, without actually saying anything meaningful about what happened. Photography is different because every shot is the result of a decision made by the photographer; even those shots taken by accident aren’t so accidental.

 

Priestly Ordinations 2015

Walking out the door with camera in hand is already a decision to start telling a story even if one doesn’t know how the story is going to end. In these years of renewal, the Church has challenged us to define the essential elements of our charism. We have our Constitutions and Statues, which are good at describing the WHAT of Regnum Christi. Nevertheless, our Movement is not about a WHAT, but rather about a WHO. The WHO belongs not to definitions but to narration, to story.

Our charism is the story of a personal encounter with Christ, that each of us has experienced in a multitude of different circumstances. In an age when attention spans grow increasingly shorter (maybe even too short to read to the end of this interview), photography provides the perfect medium to tell the story of WHO we are as Regnum Christi members.

 

How is photography part of your ministry as a priest?

Photography allows me to preach without using words. It invites without imposing. This makes it ideal for the new evangelization.

 

Advent by Candlelight

Much of my work as a priest involves helping people to perceive the presence and action of God in the ordinary events of their own lives. Photography allows me to show ordinary things in an extraordinary light. This is a metaphor for the way faith enlightens our daily activities and opens us to the action of grace in all we do.

Rather than seeking after extraordinary signs of the supernatural, we learn to open the eyes of our hearts and discover that God shines all around us in the most common and familiar experiences.

 

For me, the most important story that needs to be told is that of Regnum Christi members. The renewal of the Movement is not completed with the approval of documents in Rome, but with the rediscovery of the treasure that we already possess within us.

 

Those who have been in Regnum Christi for a long time may run the risk of falling into routine, or even boredom. Those who have never heard of Regnum Christi don’t know where to start looking. Both need to encounter and continue reencountering our story. It’s my hope that my photos can tell a part of that tale.

 

What is it about photographs that captures us and can help us to pray and reflect?

Morning Glory

Photography is itself a morally indifferent medium. It can be used both to elevate and to denigrate. Too often photography focuses on the ugly and obscene in life. Photography can be used to spread lies about who we are as human beings, and about what our life is about.

Photography needs to be restored to its true dignity by the encounter with the Gospel. It reminds us of the goodness and beauty of creation. Most of all it draws attention to the individuality, uniqueness, and dignity of each soul. I prefer to bestow upon my subjects something of an epic quality, showing both who they are and who they are meant to be. This is not to engage their vanity, but rather to affirm a fundamental truth – the infinite worth of each soul. Every soul is worth saving, and every soul has been saved by the love of Christ. In the Incarnation, Christ’s story is joined to each of our personal stories. Undoubtedly no story is more epic than that of the Son of God!

 

Can you share some of your favorite photos with us?

 

“A silhouette of my dad. A reminder that many of us capture a glimpse of God’s paternity first in our own fathers.”

 

“My most popular photo on Flickr with over 10,000 views, shot on a smartphone. Just to prove you don’t need fancy equipment to get a good photo.”

 

“Unapproachable Light, cf. 1 Tim 6:16” shot at sunrise at St. Peter’s Basilica

 

“An epic shot of Fr. Benjamin Errington on the Scala Regia, Vatican. A reminder that the vocation of each one of us is epic in Christ’s eyes.”

 

“Early morning shot at Villa Pamphili, Rome. Evokes the Greek ideals of harmony and proportion. I caught a triple reflection of one of the bishops. A reminder of the threefold episcopal mission: govern, teach, sanctify.”

 

“Fun shot of Br. Adrian Lawrence, L. C., who happens to look alot like the model for the Calendario Romano. Just a reminder that life’s supposed to be fun too!”

 

“Fr. Andrew Dalton, L.C., and the bronze statue based on the Shroud of Turin. A visual representation of our Christ centered spirituality.”

 

Read more about Fr. Brett’s first year as a priest here, and follow him on Instagram @btairalc and flickr.

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!