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The Catholic Defender: Saint Colette

(13 January 1381 – 6 March 1447) was a Frenchabbess and the foundress of the Colettine Poor Clares, a reform branch of the Order of Saint Clare, better known as the Poor Clares.

St. Colette was born Nicole Boellet, in Corbie, France. Her father was a poor carpenter at the Benedictine Abbey of Corbie. Tradition tells us that her parents were without children, and after having prayed to St. Nicholas for help in having a child, their prayers were answered. Her mother Marguerite gave birth to a daughter, Nicole at the age of 60. Out of gratitude, they named the baby after the saint to whom they credited the miracle of her birth. Her family and friends called Nicole, Colette, a derivative of St. Nicholas.

her parents had grown old without having children, before praying to Saint Nicholas for help in having a child. Their prayers were answered when, at the age of 60, Marguerite gave birth to a daughter.

The little girl took great pleasure in prayer, in compassion for the poor, and in rigorous mortification, making of her soul and of her tender body a sacrifice to God. Up to her 14th year St Colette de Corbie remained unusually small in stature; the was a great grief got her father. St Colette begged God to console her father in this matter, and then she began to grow very rapidly to normal height.

Out of gratitude, they named the baby after the saint to whom they credited the miracle of her birth. She was affectionately called Nicolette by her parents, which soon came to be shorted to Colette, by which name she is known.

She is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. Due to a number of miraculous events claimed during her life, she is venerated as a patron saint of women seeking to conceive, expectant mothers, and sick children.

In September 1402, Colette received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis

St Colette de Corbie endured untold hardships in fulfilling the task assigned to her, but heaven supported her even in visible ways; numerous miracles, including the raising to life of several dead persons, occurred in answer to her prayers and in confirmation of her work.

Her reform prescribed extreme poverty, going barefoot, and the observance of perpetual fasting and abstinence. In addition to the strict rules of the Poor Clares, the Colettines follow their special Constitutions. St. Colette also developed a reform among the Franciscan Friars known as the Coletans.

After her parents died in 1399, Colette joined the Beguines Order, but found their manner of life unchallenging. She received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis in 1402, and became a hermit under the direction of the Abbot of Corbie. She remained a hermit for four years, and after several dreams and visions, she came to believe that she was being called to reform the Franciscan Second Order, and to return it to its original Franciscan ideals of absolute poverty and austerity. Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon received her in France, and allowed her to transfer to the Order of the Poor Clares. He empowered her to found new Monasteries and to complete the reform of the Order.

St. Colette was known for her miracles, a local peasant woman gave birth to a stillborn child. In desperation, out of fear for the child’s soul, the father took the baby to the local Parish Priest for baptism. Seeing that the child was already dead, the Priest refused to baptize the body. The father became insistent and the priest told him to go to the Nuns.

When he arrived at the monastery, Mother Colette was made aware of his situation. She was given the Veil she wore, by the Pope, and took it off. She wrapped the child’s body into it, and told the father to return the child to the Priest. By the time he arrived at the Parish Church with his dead baby, the child was conscious and crying. The Priest immediately baptized the baby.

St. Colette was born in 1381, and lost her parents at the age of seventeen. She was a spiritual child, and was named after St. Nicholas. Her parents were childless, and after having prayed to St. Nicholas, her mother gave birth to her at the age of sixty. She entered the religious life and became a hermit. After many dreams and visions, she felt God had called her to reform the Poor Clares.

She was received into the Poor Clares and was not only to reform them, but was given the task of founding new monasteries. She founded seventeen convents with the reformed rule and reformed several older convents. She was renowned for her sanctity, ecstasies, and visions of the Passion of our Lord. She even prophesied her own death in her Convent at Ghent, Belgium. A branch of the Poor Clares is still known today as the Colettine Sisters. She was canonized in 1807, and her feast day is March 6th.

Colette did not seek the limelight, but in doing God’s will she certainly attracted a lot of attention. Colette was born in Corbie, France. At 21, she began to follow the Third Order Rule and became an anchoress, a woman walled into a room whose only opening was a window into a church.

The humble virgin recoiled at the thought, which she tried to persuade herself was an illusion of the proud spirit of darkness. But the inspiration returned again and again, and when St Colette de Corbie continued to resist it, she was struck dumb and later on blind, until she finally resigned herself to the will of God, like Saul before Damascus.

After four years of prayer and penance in this cell, she left it. With the approval and encouragement of the pope, she joined the Poor Clares and reintroduced the primitive Rule of St. Clare in the 17 monasteries she established.

Her sisters were known for their poverty—they rejected any fixed income—and for their perpetual fast. Colette’s reform movement spread to other countries and is still thriving today. Colette was canonized in 1807. Her liturgical feast is celebrated on March 6.

St. Colette died at Ghent, in March 1477. She was beatified in 1740 by Pope Clement XII and was canonized in 1807 by Pope Pius VII. The Colettine Nuns are currently found in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, throughout the United Kingdom and the United States.

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 today, outside of France, in Belgium, Germany, Spain, England, and the United States.


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