Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. This is the Old Testament Bible story of 17-year old Joseph. His father loved him very much that he gifted him a coat of many colors that symbolized this great love. As Joseph’s brothers looked on, they did so with envy and hatred. A gift given in love was seen as a gift of favoritism that was unjustly given. A gift given in love turned others to hatred. Yet, the receiver of this gift, Joseph, transformed hatred to love by responding with compassion and mercy toward his brothers. He was guided by sacred wisdom.
The coat of many colors is a great symbol for Foundations in Wisdom, the new spiritual formation program at Dominican Center. Each time we gather we weave another color through the coat of sacred wisdom that strengthens our resolve to live with compassion and commit our lives to justice that is always guided by God’s love.
In September 2019, a group of 26 committed to this intensive 9-month formation in sacred wisdom. Through contemplation and prayer, study and dialog, the participants make room for their own transformation as they move from understanding wisdom from the head space to the heart space.
Wisdom walkers like Martin Luther King, Jr., Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB, Malala Yousafzai, and Saint Oscar Romero guide our new “wisdom seekers” by example and lived experiences; deepening their understanding of justice and mercy; gratitude and gratefulness; humility and surrender; reverence and trust; woundedness and suffering; compassion and empathy; joy and generosity; perseverance and devotion; and community and solidarity. By embracing these elements of wisdom, the wisdom seekers are strengthening their spiritual foundation.
Zahabia Ahmed-Usmani, program coordinator at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, shared how her own faith as a devout Muslim guides her work in building interfaith understanding and community; Debra Gutowski, director of Native American Ministry for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, guided us through humility and respect for all God’s creation and people; Sisters Maureen Geary, OP and Joan Williams, OP imparted their wisdom of being in right relationship as they shared their own lived experiences in ministry. Sister Maureen spoke of her work advocating for fair housing in Grand Rapids. Bishop Oswaldo Escobar Aguilar, OCD of Chalatenango, El Salvador reminded us that a church that is awake is a church that feeds the poor, welcomes the immigrant, and visits the prisoner.
Foundations in Wisdom has guided the 26 wisdom seekers to a deeper relationship with God. They, like Joseph who wore the coat of many colors, are strengthening themselves with the coat of wisdom, so to guide them in their own service to others, so that when they face discrimination they respond with mercy, when they face injustice they respond with humility and when they face hatred they respond with love.
Margarita Solis-Deal is director of Dominican Center at Marywood, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids.