Today is the feast day of Saint Colette de Corbie. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Colette was born Nicolette Boellet, but called Colette, her parents were well-advanced in age. Her father (Robert Boellet), known throughout the region of France, was a well-known carpenter, having constructed monasteries and abbeys in the region. Her mother, (Marguerite Moyon), over 60 years old, had conceived late in life, following devout prayer to Saint Nicholas, the patron of children. (6)
Colette was orphaned at age 17, and promptly gave her inheritance to the poor of the region. She sought to enter the religious life, but had difficulty finding an order which matched her strict observances. She unsuccessfully entered the Bequines, the Benedictines, and the Urbanist Poor Clares, leaving each due to her perception of their relaxed rules on poverty and obedience. Colette subsequently became a hermitess for three years, living in a small hut adjacent to the church at Corbie, and at age 21, became an anchoress, having herself walled into a cell with only a small window which opened into the church. There she lived for some time in complete solitude, in prayer, fasting, and poverty. (6)
With the approval of the Countess of Geneva and the Franciscan Henri de la Beaume, her confessor and spiritual guide, Colette began her work at Beaume, in the Diocese of Geneva. She remained there but a short time and soon opened at Besancon her first convent in an almost abandoned house of Urbanist Poor Clares. Thence her reform spread to Auxonne (1410), to Poligny, to Ghent (1412), to Heidelberg (1444), to Amiens, etc. To the seventeen convents founded during her lifetime must be added another begun by her at Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine. She also inaugurated a reform among the Franciscan friars (the Coletani), not to be confounded with the Observants. These Coletani remained obedient to the authority of the provincial of the Franciscan convents, and never attained much importance even in France.
St Colette had a great desire for a relic of the True Cross. One day when she was contemplating Our Lord’s suffering in the midst of her community, she was drawn into an ecstasy. When her contemplation was over, she realized she was holding a small gold crucifix that had not been there before. It contained a small relic of the True Cross. Years later, upon preparing for her death, she gave away her few possessions. The abbess of Besancon received this cross as St Colette told her: “Keep it and treasure it, for it is from Heaven.”
Saint Colette was renowned for her sanctity and ecstatic visions of the Passion. She would fast every Friday, prayerfully contemplating the Passion, and following reception of the Holy Eucharist would enter ecstatic visions of Christ, lasting hours into the evening. Like Saint Francis, she had an affinity for animals, and demonstrated care for all of God’s creatures. She foretold her own death in her convent at Ghent, Belgium, on March 6, 1447.
St. Colette was beatified 23 January, 1740, and canonized 24 May, 1807. She was not only a woman of sincere piety, but also intelligent and energetic, and exercised a remarkable moral power over all her associates. She was very austere and mortified in her life, for which God rewarded her by supernatural favours and the gift of miracles. For the convents reformed by her she prescribed extreme poverty, to go barefooted, and the observance of perpetual fast and abstinence. The Colettine Sisters are found to-day, outside of France, in Belgium, Germany, Spain, England, and the United States. (4)
Image: Saint Colette (c. 1520), by the Master of Lourinhã (National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon, Portugal). (7)
Research by REGINA Staff