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!