St Colette and the babies!
Colette is the patron saint of expectant mothers, of those who long to conceive a child and of sick children.
Colette arrived late in her mother’s life, as a result of prayers to St Nicholas - which is how she got her full name: Nicolette. Thus her first job has been to pray specially for would-be parents who long to conceive a child.
In the very early days, on her way to see the Pope, before she had a single sister to follow her, she arrived at the home of a friend, whose wife was in labour with their third daughter and was apparently dying. Colette went straight to the chapel to pray and the mother was successfully delivered and felt she owed her life to Colette. Years later, the little girl born that night, Pierinne, became a sister in one of Colette’s houses, and was her secretary and biographer.
So this is Colette’s second job in heaven, to pray for expectant mothers that they may have a safe and happy birth.
When Colette reformed her first house she did not get an enthusiastic reaction. Her community at Besançon was regarded with suspicion. But her life was changed by a baby, and conversely, the baby was changed by her life.
Life for death
A local man, who wife had just given birth to a stillborn child, took it to the parish priest for baptism. The priest refused, pointing out that the child was dead. The man insisted. Again and again he came back to the priest with his dead child in his arms. The priest, feeling cornered, became irritable and angry. Finally, he shouted: “Take it to the nuns, I can’t do anything for you!” The hysterical man, clutching his pathetic bundle, arrived at St Colette’s house. She did a strange thing. She took off her veil and gave it to the portress to give to the man, telling him to wrap his child in it and go back to the priest. When the priest saw the man return with his black wrapped burden, he immediately began to protest. The row was silenced by a faint cry from inside the veil. With trembling haste, they opened the font and baptised the now wailing baby ...
Colette died in 1447, at Ghent. In the upheavals of history, her relics came to rest at Poligny in northern France. The wagon in which she travelled on her many foundations sat out the centuries in the covered arcade that leads to the monastery and the local children played and prayed in it and used it as a sort of religious Wendy house! Many children were recorded as healed there - by the prayers of other children! Until the French revolution, when the sisters had to flee and the wagon was burned.
Over the intervening centuries, Colette has interceded for many sick children and suffering adults right up to the present day. She has helped the blind see and the lame walk, and proclaimed that the Gospel is good news.
The veil of St Colette
The original veil which Pope Benedict gave to Colette at her reception into the order is amongst the treasures at Ghent. Here at Ty Mam Duw, we have two threads from St Colette’s mantle, a gift to us three-quarters of a century ago from our sisters in Ghent. They are mounted on a Poor Clare veil.
We generally celebrate holy Mother Colette’s feast and have the blessing with St Colette’s veil on the Saturday nearest to the 7 February (her liturgical feast).
However. if you are expecting a child, or you and your spouse want to be prayed for to conceive, or you want to bring a sick child or adult for a blessing, even though you may not perhaps share the fullness of our Catholic faith, you are welcome at any time!
When the woman in the crowd, whose story is told in Gospel (Luke 8:40-56), touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, she was healed - as the Lord himself tells her - by her faith. Not by the robe. In Sacred Scripture, faith goes hand in hand with hope and love. The life of love that Colette lived strengthens our hope and encourages us to have the faith that she had in the Lord. That is why we treasure this humble memento of our Mother and ask to share her trust in God and His blessing!