Saint Colette was born on January 13, 1381 in Corbie, a town located in northern France. She was the daughter of a rich weaver. From a young age, she showed signs of piety and deep religious devotion. At the age of 18, Colette joined a Poor Clare monastery in Corbie, where she took her religious vows and adopted the name Colette in honor of Saint Nicholas.
Reform of the order of the Poor Clares:
Colette is best known for her reform of the Order of the Poor Clares, a branch of the Franciscan order founded by Saint Clare of Assisi. By his time, many Poor Clare convents had lost their monastic discipline and strict observance of religious rules. Colette, animated by an ardent zeal for the reform of the Church, felt the call to reestablish monastic life according to the original Franciscan principles.
In 1406, with the approval of the Franciscan order, Colette founded a new convent in Besançon, France, which became the first Reformed convent of the Poor Clares. She introduced rigorous observance of Franciscan rules, including strict poverty and austerity of life, as well as the practice of monastic enclosure, which meant that nuns were not to leave the convent. This reform aroused controversy and resistance, but it was finally approved by Pope Martin V in 1431.
Travels and foundations:
After the success of her reform in Besançon, Colette undertook a journey across Europe to found new reformed convents of the Poor Clares. She traveled to France, Savoy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, reforming several convents along the way. Her spiritual influence and reputation for holiness preceded her, and she was widely welcomed in the cities and regions she visited.
Death and canonization:
Saint Colette died on March 6, 1447 in Ghent, Belgium. She had spent her life working for the reform of the order of the Poor Clares and promoting authentic religious life. She was canonized in 1807 by Pope Pius VII.
Saint Colette's legacy lies primarily in her successful reform of the order of the Poor Clares, which restored discipline and piety within this religious order. His example of devotion, charity and perseverance continues to inspire Christians, especially those dedicated to religious life. Many convents of the Reformed Poor Clares, called “Colettine Poor Clares,” still exist today and perpetuate the spiritual legacy of Saint Colette by living according to the principles she reestablished.