The Bicentenary year of Fr. Clotet has been marked by a wealth of reflection and activity. Fr. Juan Carlos Martos CMF, Director of the Centre of Claretian Spirituality (CESC), has shared his insights on the legacy of Fr. Clotet and the significance of the year-long celebration. The CESC has dedicated a special section on its website to Fr. Clotet, and numerous events have taken place around the world to commemorate his life and work.
The Superior General of the Claretian Missionaries, Fr. Mathew Vatamattam, also released a circular highlighting the importance of Fr. Clotet and the impact of his teachings on the Claretian community. Fr. Juan Carlos has graciously agreed to answer some questions to help us better understand the significance of this bicentenary year.
1.What was Fr Clotet like, his character or personality?
Clotet embraced his vocation from his own personal identity. He was more a man of interiority, shy but not intimidated, careful in his duties, a tireless worker, an observer and at the same time attentive not only to his inner stirrings and motions, but also to the people he met and realistic in the difficult circumstances he had to live through: exile, poverty, misunderstandings, etc.
2. What role did Father Clotet play in the configuration of the Congregation as we know it today?
His best and most profound contribution was already recorded by Pope St. John Paul II when he declared him Venerable in these words: “His mission in the Institute can be summed up as follows: firm defender of the interior life in an intensely apostolic Institute”. Clotet, without ever ceasing to feel himself a missionary, emphasised the contemplative side of the Claretian life, which is inseparable from the apostolic, but which is usually the weakest.
Clotet is portrayed as a kind and welcoming person, faithful and reliable, a lover of the Congregation to the point of moving us, an irreplaceable formator of the first generations of missionary Brothers and a mystic of the presence of God. However, opinions about his tendency to scrupulosity or his more monastic than apostolic influence during his stays in formation centres and other known things would have to be more rigorously qualified. These aspects would have to be compared objectively, but always in the light of the deep love he had for the Founder, of whom he was the chronicler, and for the Congregation for which he gave himself for many years.
3. Recently he has been rediscovered as a pioneer in the work with deaf-mutes. What was his real contribution in this field?
This is an original activity of Fr. Clotet’s known in the Congregation, but its true repercussion is not yet appreciated. It helped so much the work of a thesis on the subject by Fr. Manuel Segura cmf published in 1986, and also the research work of a group of specialists in the Catalan Sign Language (LSC). Clotet was not the discoverer of it. In fact, in his first meeting in Civit with the deaf man, the latter was already exchanging gestures with his father that enabled him to understand and be understood. Clotet’s genius was to learn LSC himself, then codify it for the first time in a syntax and publish it. He dedicated himself to deaf children who did not attend school – the poorest of the poor. He had to learn – and also invent – natural signs, not just the manual transcription of written letters. And with them he conveyed the “transmission of thought”, as the title of his first pedagogical work aptly puts it. His teachings are still largely valid today.
4. Can you share a personal story or anecdote about Fr. Clotet that highlights his character, faith and commitment to the Claretian mission?
Clotet did not content himself with catechising the deaf, but also devoted himself to their promotion and help. Eustaquio Belloso, a Claretian of the same community, relates some facts: “(…) when they were sick he visited them and procured for them the good he could when they needed it. To one called José Serra, who came from Barcelona, his married sister who lived in Vich, did not want him in her house unless he brought bed and clothes and earned enough to sustain himself. Fr. Serra provided him with a bed and clothes and told his servant to teach him to sew, and within a few days he knew how to make trousers; then he put him in a trusted tailor’s shop called «el sastre de La Yuixa», where he learned a great deal”. It was with missionaries like this that our missionaries were formed.
Interviewed by Fr. José Enrique García Rizo CMF
Interview translated from the original in Spanish.