Saint Colette (13 January 1381 – 6 March 1447), born Nicole Boellet, was born in Corbie in the Picardy region of France, in January 1381, to Robert Boellet, a poor carpenter at the noted Benedictine Abbey of Corbie, and to his wife, Marguerite Moyon. Her contemporary biographers say that 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. Out of gratitude, they named the baby after the saint to whom they credited the miracle of her birth.
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. On the other hand, St Colette de Corbie asked God to deprive her of the rare beauty she possessed, which she believed might be the occasion of danger to herself and others; that request, too, was granted, and Colette developed features of a severe cast which inspired great respect.
When both her parents had died, St Colette de Corbie, at the age of 22, obtained the permission of the Church authorities to shut herself up in a small abode directly adjoining the church; from a small window in it she could see the Blessed Sacrament. There she expected to spend the remainder of her life as an anchoress.
Almighty God had destined St Colette for something extraordinary. In a series of visions Colette saw, as it were, the whole corrupt social fabric of her age, collapsing into destruction like leaves swept into a furnace. There was nothing exaggerated in her visions. She could almost have seen the reality by looking out of the window. Then she saw St Francis come before the Lord, and kneeling down, he begged, “Lord, give me this woman for the reform of my Order.”
The Lord showed her a vision of a great golden tree from which sprung other trees: she was the first tree and the nurslings were the houses she was to found. Unimpressed, she pulled up the trees and threw them out of the window. As she would not look at him, God took away her ability to see at all. As she refused to listen, she found herself deprived of the power of hearing.
“Lord,” St Colette de Corbie sobbed in her heart, “what wilt Thou have me do? I am ready to do anything Thou desirest of me.” At once her speech and her sight were restored.
St Colette had a great desire for a relic of the True Cross. One day when she was contemplating Our Lord’s suffering in the midst of her community, she was drawn into an ecstasy. When her contemplation was over, she realized she was holding a small gold crucifix that had not been there before. It contained a small relic of the True Cross. Years later, upon preparing for her death, she gave away her few possessions. The abbess of Besancon received this cross as St Colette told her: “Keep it and treasure it, for it is from Heaven.”
After laboring for 40 years, she was to receive her eternal reward. She died in her convent at Ghent on March 6, 1447.