It was very sad for me, but the atmosphere in St. Peter’s Square was obviously one of more joy and encouragement and love than sorrow. You just can’t help cheering on a pope who decides to head into the arena of intense prayer, especially in times like these when people really feel the need of intense intercession. As he said today, he’s not going back to private life. A life of prayer for others is a public life. And he was serious in asking all of us for our prayers.
I miss him already.
Also, the tie-in between Colossians and the Pope talking about his relationship with all of us was very telling. Seldom does an intellectual, introverted guy like Benedict speak solely in the language of personal experience and feeling. He was so full of joy and yet obviously so worn.
But the greatest joy was to hear him talk about his closeness with the Lord during his pontificate (and yeah, I think we should interpret his words about feeling the Lord’s presence every day as being not a platitude, but precise reporting, because he’s not the theologian who would handwave this stuff) and about his faith that the Church is the Lord’s fishing boat, and the Lord is always the one looking after it.
That doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed that the next pope will be wonderful and perfect; but it does mean that the boat will keep on going, doing the Lord’s work, whether or not the next pope is great, mediocre, or bad. (Though obviously it’s good for the cardinals to try to get a good or great pope.) We have supernatural backup. Wind and waves will come, but the Lord will come also. We may worry that He’s asleep, but He’s still the Master of wind and wave.