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Colette (1381–1447)

Colette (1381–1447)

Flemish religious reformer and saint. Name variations: Saint Coletté. Born Nicolette Boelet at Corbie, near Amiens, on January 13, 1381; died at Ghent on March 6, 1447; daughter of Robert Boelet (an artisan) and a mother who was dutifully religious.

Of the Franciscan order of the Poor Clares, Colette instituted reforms in its rules and administration. Eighteen when her parents died within a short time of each other, she was left under the guardianship of Dom de Roye, the Benedictine abbot of Corbie. Though de Roye wished to see her safely married, Colette preferred to seek the life of a religious, but she was soon disappointed. She lived in one convent then another, leaving both because she found the life too soft. She then entered the convent of the Poor Clares of Moncel, near Pont-Saint-Maxence, but once again found the rules too lax for her needs.

On September 17, 1402, authorized by her guardian to take the vow of seclusion, she took up residence in a cell between two buttresses of Notre Dame de Corbie, accessed from the church by a grill. She lived there for three years. While there, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi appeared to her and commanded her to reform the Franciscan order. After an audience with Pope Benedict XIII, Colette was named superior general of all the convents of Poor Clares. She traveled, worked miracles, endured suffering, and collaborated with St. Vincent Ferrer to eradicate schism. The Colettine reform spread through France, Spain, Flanders, and Savoy.

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