Born Nicolette Boellet, but called Colette, her parents were well-advanced in age. Her father, known throughout the region of France, was a well-known carpenter, having constructed monasteries and abbeys in the region. Her mother, over 60 years old, had conceived late in life, following devout prayer to Saint Nicholas, the patron of children.
It was while she was secluded that she experienced the great visions which would move her to action. In her first vision, Colette witnessed the moral destruction of the world, a vision which left her frightened and moved. Later, had another vision in which she saw Saint Francis of Assisi come before the Lord, and kneeling down, he begged, “Lord, give me this woman for the reform of my Order” (as the Franciscan Order had been part of Colette's vision of a destroyed world). In the vision, the Lord bowed His head, giving ascent for her mission.
Saint Colette set out across France, Belgium, and Spain, reforming and establishing more than 18 Poor Clare communities under the original Rule of Saint Clare. (These communities, for political reasons during the rule of Pope Urban IV, had been forced to adopt less austere ways of life). During her travels, Colette counseled peace between warring countries, miraculously crossing battlefields unharmed. It is said that every person who met her was changed for the better.
Saint Colette, remembering the vision of the Lord depicting the moral decline of society and the Church, never ceased praying for the sanctity of the Church and it’s leaders. In response, she was continuously plagued by the Devil, who visited upon her torture and temptation. She was frequently surrounded by stinging insects, who swarmed around her, stinging her repeatedly. Decomposing corpses of criminals and heretics would miraculously appear in her cell, even while she was walled in. Saint Colette further would further undergo physical torture and the hands of demons, leaving her bruised, broken, and exhausted. Holy legend tells us that Saint Colette once complained to Our Lord that these demons and trials were keeping her from her prayers. The Devil is said to have responded to her, “Cease, then, your prayers to the great Master of the Church, and we will cease to torment you. For you torment us more by your prayers than we do you.”
Saint Colette serves as a reminder for us that times of struggle and suffering can lead to redemption and conversion. In her words, "If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured." These words, modeled after the life of Jesus Christ, His suffering for us, call us to patience in this world, and life everlasting in the next.
"If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured."
God, our Father,
You set Saint Colette as an example and leader of evangelical perfection for many virgins.
Grant that the spirit of Saint Francis which she wisely taught and wondrously confirmed by her holy example may ever abide in us.