Today, the universal Church honors St. Colette of Corbie, a brave and persistent woman who reformed the Order of Poor Clares.
She was born in 1381 in Corbie, in Picardy, France. Her father, Robert Boellet, worked as the carpenter at the Benedictine Abbey of Corbie, and her mother was Marguerite Moyon. Colette joined in successive order, the Bequines, the Benedictines and finally, the Urbanist Poor Clares.
She lived as a recluse for some time. But she decided to enter the order of Poor Clares, knowing that it needed reformation. Accordingly, she went to Benedict XIII, an antipope, but recognized by France as the rightful Pope, who allowed her to enter the order of Poor Clares, empowering her by papal bulls to form new convents and/or monasteries and to complete the reform of the order.
Colette began her work at Beaume, in the Diocese of Geneva. She remained there for awhile and soon opened a convent at Besancon, her first convent in an almost abandoned home. Her reform became widespread, with 17 convents/monasteries being established. She reintroduced the primitive Rule of St. Clare, wherein the nuns were known for their poverty, rejecting any fixed income and also acknowledged for their perpetual fast. Colette’s reform movement spread to other countries and it still thrives today. She died in 1447 and was canonized in 1807.
Colette’s work took place during the Great Western Schism (1378-1417), wherein three men claimed to be pope which definitely affected Christianity in the Western world, being a very difficult century for the Western Church.
In Colette’s spiritual testament, she advised her sisters:
We must faithfully keep what we have promised. If through human weakness we fail, we must always without delay arise again by means of holy penance, and give our attention to leading a good life and to dying a holy death. May the Father of all mercy, the Son by His holy passion, and the Holy Spirit, source of peace, sweetness and love, fill us with their consolation. Amen.
Colette was definitely a woman who was a “mover and a shaker”, reminding the world at that time to live as Christ lived, with simplicity and humility. She obviously was highly successful in her reformation efforts, wherein she founded 17 monasteries for her order. What a remarkably determined lady, always focused on her Faith, always focused on Our Lord Jesus Christ. May we have that same mindset to do everything we do, and to be everything we can be, for the honor and glory of God!
Sources: www.americancatholic.org; EWTN Library