St. Colette was born to a poor family in Picardy, France. Upon the death of her parents, she was cared for by the local abbey where her father had worked. Naturally drawn to contemplative life, she became a Third Order Franciscan and afterward received permission to enter an enclosed cell attached to the church. There she spent four years in solitude and prayer, until one day, on the feast day of St. Francis, she received an extraordinary vision. She saw Francis and the Blessed Mother begging Christ to put her in charge of reforming the Franciscan Order. In an audience with Peter de Luna – recognized by the French, in this time of papal schism, as Pope Benedict XIII – he endorsed her mission and appointed her superior of any convent she might found or reform.
At once, this uneducated young maid of twenty-four set off on a tour of all the Poor Clare houses in France. She met with wide scorn and even violent opposition. In more than one case, she was accused of sorcery. Yet the tide began to turn. In all, she founded seventeen new convents and restored to many others the strict poverty of the primitive rule of St. Clare. Her reform also spread to a number of friaries, and many noble families sought her wisdom and counsel. She was sustained by a deep discipline of prayer, and every Friday she received a vision of Jesus on the cross. Like her master, St. Francis, she was drawn to animals, especially lambs and birds, which she easily tamed.
She died in 1447 and was canonized in 1807.