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Although she was Abbess General of all the reformed convents and Directress of several hundred friars and nuns who were subject to her in all parts of the world, she would not accept any title but that of "Sister Colette."  This was how she signed all her letters;  and she often added some expression of humility such as ". . .unworthy and useless servant of God."  She began her letters with ". . .my soul. . .the poorest in the whole world. . ."  Colette always tried to hide herself; she wished to be forgotten.  When she arrived at one of the monasteries founded by herself, she immediately placed herself under the orders of the Abbess, even in a convent where she herself was abbess.  


She delegated her office from time to time to others so as to be for a while just an ordinary nun and to follow the common rule to the letter.  At these times, she served in the kitchen and washed up the sisters' plates; she was the least conspicuous member of the community.  The smallest room in the convent was always the one she chose.  She preferred one which was particularly narrow and low.  


She preferred to dwell, not in the convents which were fairly well off but, in those which were poorest and where one ate anything and everything.  


When alone, she took her meals sitting on the ground;  and she ate from a little wooden bowl which she carried wherever she went.



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With the desire to unite the two Franciscan groups, one group that wanted to return to the original Franciscan spirit to which St. Colette belonged and the other group who did not want any change in their "new" state, St. John Capistran, with Pope Eugene IV, presented a "Compromise Constitution."  But, of course, any suggestion of union and compromise pre-supposes certain concessions on both sides and St. Colette knew she would be asked to abandon some of her austere regulations.  


Pressured to make a decision by the Pope and a saintly priest, St. Colette asked for two days.  All the nuns gave themselves to extraordinary penances;  Colette joined their processions on her knees and, during those two days, she did nothing but weep and pray.  After two days, God's will was not yet clear.  So she asked for an extension; but they would not give it to her.  


Colette reasoned thus:  Will she destroy a work that had taken a lifetime to do?  Will she betray all that she had taught others?  What will she say to those men and women who had surrendered to a life of high ideals?  Will concessions serve any useful end?  Isn't  it that, in any compromise, the strict observers relax their rules to no advantage, while the lax observers become a little strict and then slowly return to their lax lives?   Colette's decision as to God's will was very clear.  And God, Himself, would relay His will to St. John Capistran.  


While St. John was far away, Christ appeared to him in a dream and showed him why he must no longer thwart Colette in her work.  St. John ran in haste to Colette and said:  "I ask your forgiveness. . .I admit I was wrong and have annoyed you without cause. . .never again shall I molest you. . .I believe in your reform as from God;  persevere. . .because God is with you.  St. John understood because he was a saint caring more for the glory of God and the salvation of souls rather than the success of some organizational reunion.  



* * *





There was a nun whom Colette accepted knowing that, if this young girl remained in the world, her salvation would be endangered.  Later on, this nun fell mortally ill.  Colette knew very well that her soul was still in peril of damnation.  So Colette prayed to God and received the answer that, if the nun would be obedient, she would be saved.  So she commanded the nun, "Marie, speak to me."  And immediately the invalid turned towards her and spoke revealing all her sins and faults.  After which she went into her agony and passed away with Colette announcing, "She is on the path of salvation."  



* * *





Bishop Raymon, a man of some piety, used to come and consult Colette.  One day, he visited the saint to ask for prayers in connection with a very important journey to Rome which he was about to undertake.  The saint immediately saw through his heart; she saw that the bishop was going to Rome to obtain by influence the cardinal's hat.  With insight into the spiritual ills of souls, Colette saw that the bishop, a seeker of honours, would not live very long.  So she warned him to think more of his trip to eternity rather than his trip to Rome, hinting that his end would not be long delayed.  The bishop took the saint's words lightly and still went to Rome.  He died shortly after his arrival.



* * *





At the early age of 15 - 17, St. Colette began teaching the way of salvation with great authority and clarity at a time when she was considered uneducated. The clergy was by no means pleased with this impromptu preacher and denounced her to the Bishop, "because. . .our churches are deserted as people flock to her preachings."


The Bishop sent a priest who secretly attended her meetings. The priest sent a report to the Bishop, praising not only the learning of this young girl but also her prudence and wisdom. The report added: if those members of the clergy who had denounced her were themselves more zealous in their priesthood, they might be less inclined to be jealous of her.


However, the murmurings, gossips and detractions went on. Colette was called names.  The noble families of the neighborhood all prevented their daughters from going near her.


She had to face such serious difficulties for such a young person. Nevertheless, she persevered, confident she was doing nothing wrong, never weary of talking to her appreciative audience, heedless of malicious comments. But the inevitable happened.


The Bishop of Amiens, despite the favorable report, because of pressures from the rich and powerful, advised Colette to cease from her discourses. Thenceforth, Colette was silent.



* * *





St. Colette, through God's express will, reformed and established many religious communities.  Then she dreamed of establishing, in her old age, one last foundation at her own town of Corbie.  All the necessary preliminaries were ready: the townsfolk were all for it, the Pope issued a bull authorizing the foundation, the Queen and King of France encouraged the project and the Abbot of the Benedictines showed himself somewhat favourable to the undertaking.  It was the Prior and monks of the same Benedictine monastery who opposed the project.  Motivated by jealousy, envy and pride, they refused to yield because "they were not consulted about the project.  But why should they be consulted when this was a Franciscan project?  


St. Colette asked more powerful friends to intervene; the Pope sent a new Bull but the Benedictine monks opposed it violently: "qui ne souffriraient jour de leurs vies que le monastere soit edifie."  Even the Abbot who was in favor of it at the beginning began to waver.  Colette bent her head before a stern reality. . .that the obstacle to her reform and sanctification of souls were monks who precisely were in the monastery that needed to reform and sanctify their souls.  (Note: This lax Benedictine monastery did not join the Benedictine reform started and headed by the Abbey of Monte Caseino and the Abbey of Bursfeld in Germany.)  



* * *





The parents of St. Colette were well off.  Her father was very religious.  He engaged in a peculiar good work. . .a work of charity for poor women of evil reputation who wished to amend their lives.  


This particular work of mercy is one which often gives rise to uncharitable criticism.  Many Christians, like the Pharisees, turn away from these women, objecting to such degrading association.  Others, with evil sneers, rash judge the motives of the rescuers.  


Only those engaged in the work can realize the patience and sympathy this work requires.  Boillet bought a house as a refuge for these women and, in return for this generous gift, he required that they in turn should show hospitality towards any woman who asked for shelter.  The practice of hospitality, in this seemingly ruder times, was looked on as a great Christian virtue and a most essential form of benevolence.  













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