* a Greek word for wisdom, but a special kind of wisdom, the wisdom to know what to do under pressure, the wisdom of knowing how to keep your cool in face of panic.
I chose this word as the name of my little publishing company, Sophronismos Press.
It came to me when I was reflecting on a real life experience I had when I was pastor of our Cathedral of the Assumption. When we were digging around the foundation to add space on the back of the cathedral, the walls began to crack down the back and down one side.
During this ugly turn of events, I was watching from the sidewalk on the street behind the cathedral. As the crack was widening and spitting out small puffs of smoke, I remember clearly saying to myself, "Ron, you do not have the luxury of coming unglued. You will be pastor of this parish whether that building falls down or not. Now get a grip on yourself!" That, I learned, was "sophronismos," the ability to keep one's cool in the face of panic.
I have know a few people in my 47 years of priesthood who have faced humiliating situations in their personal and families lives. In the face of public judgment, ridicule and gossip, they have been able to hold their heads up, go on with their lives and reach a place of peace. I cannot go into detail without exposing them so let's leave it there in generic terms.
Maybe you are one of those people. Maybe you, or a family member, has done something that has brought great shame on you and your family. You may have been sued for all you're worth, maybe you have had newspaper articles with photos printed in the local papers for weeks or maybe you have been stripped of your professional license and have even been imprisoned.
I am not here to comment on the deed itself that has brought you so much humiliation, but I do want to salute you for you ability to endure, the grace with which you have handled your affliction and the
sophronismos you have exhibited through it all.
Last of all, I am thinking about those who are facing imminent death, or are accompanying family members and close friends, who are fully aware of what is happening and are overwhelmed by the prospects that lay ahead. I wish them the peace that comes with sophronismos.