Poor Clare (1381-1447)
Saint Colette was born in Corbie in France in the year 1381. After the death of her parents she distributed her wealth to the poor and taking the habit of the Third Order lived for some time as a recluse. She later entered the Poor Clares and with papal approval was responsible for the renewal of many of the communities of the First and Second Orders through her insistence on prayer and poverty. She died on 6 March 1447 and was canonized in 1807.
From the Spiritual Testament of Saint Colette
Perrin, La Belle Vie, 1920 pages 274-277
Humble obedience is precious in the sight of God
My very dear daughters, recognize your holy calling, your great dignity, and your true perfection. Ignorance is appallingly dangerous; knowledge brings fruitful harvest.
Know what you are entering upon through the door of divine inspiration and a choice vocation; Our beloved Saviour tells us: “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him”, through his inspiration. Happy the one who enters the fertile land of Gospel perfection, the renunciation of the world, the flesh and self‐will! That is how Jesus our blessed Lord, born of the Virgin, describes it: “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross”; not forgetting repentance for our known sins so as not to offend God and the better to cherish his divine grace.
Bear in mind, then, dearest daughters, that your call was to perfect obedience, and when there is no question of sinning against God always be obedient; Jesus became obedient even to death. Casual obedience will not do, on particular occasions or in particular matters which arise. Obedience must embrace everything that is not contrary to God, the soul and our holy Rule. Let us not prefer our own feelings to those of our Superiors. True wisdom is being subject to Jesus and his-beloved Virgin mother. The truly obedient person does what has to be done, simply and for God’s sake, caring about nothing save genuine obedience; does it reverently, as if it issued from the very mouth of Jesus himself, the more so because the precept is easier when it is humanized like this, and humble obedience is more precious in God’s sight. No good at all comes from disobedience. A single prayer of an obedient person is worth more than a hundred thousand from those who disobey. If you obey God, he himself will obey you.
Following on from self‐denial, our Lord wants us to carry our cross; this is the vow of holy poverty. The cross is a heavy burden when we want to possess anything apart from him who bore his cross on his shoulders and deigned to die on it. O my very dear daughters, love, love this eminent virtue of poverty after the example of Jesus Christ, our glorious father Saint Francis and our own mother Saint Clare. Be content in the midst of need so that you can more easily reach the kingdom to which you are called, by means of this same poverty which you freely promised to observe. Live as truly poor people, therefore, and persevere like that till death, dear daughters, as our dear Saviour did on the cross for our sakes. Since there are but few in the world who are in love with this kind of poverty, we have a greater opportunity of loving it next to the lady Holy Obedience, whom I commend to you above all else.
It is for us to keep faithfully what we have promised. Should we fall through human frailty, we must always pick ourselves up again instantly through holy repentance, intent on a good life and a holy death. May the Father of all mercies, the Son through his sacred Passion, and the Holy Spirit, source of all peace, happiness and love, come down upon us all in the fullness of his consolations. Amen.
God our Father,
you chose Saint Colette as a model for many sisters
in living the Gospel.
Grant that the same seraphic spirit
which she wisely taught and strengthened
by the example of her holiness
may ever remain pure in us.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.