1. I am deeply saddened. As with John Paul II, I had grown to feel a filial affection for Pope Benedict XVI. He really is a Father to me in faith. I have enjoyed reading just about everything I could of his as Pope, and also some of his work prior to becoming Pope. He is the finest teacher in the world today, in my opinion.
2. I am deeply hopeful. I trust the Holy Spirit. As a man of deep prayer and constant reflection, this was no rash decision, and coming on the heels of a long silent retreat where the Holy Spirit speaks so loudly, I am confident as can be that this decision is based not on the Holy Father's will, but on the will of God.
3. Liberals must be rejoicing today, just as they cringed on the day of Pope Benedict's election (Oh, the stories I could tell of being a religion teacher in a Catholic school and having to deal with comments from other teachers who were less than thrilled that day!). To my "progressive" brothers and sisters, I offer a word of caution. Be careful what you wish for... because while you're wishing, the faithful will be praying. It is no coincidence that this announcement comes two days before the start of Lent. Be assured that the faithful will be praying and fasting more intensely than usual. The Holy Spirit will choose a man with the mind of Christ to guard and protect His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and Her deposit of faith.
4. Rumors of "change" and rumors about Pope Benedict XVI will be sure to swirl in most media circles. There will also be talk of papabile, or those who are considered likely candidates for the papacy. I see no real harm in the latter, as we are all curious - in fact, I might even try a fun exposé on the 118 cardinal electors here. The key is to focus our interests prayerfully and with an aim to learn. I exhort all to focus on prayer, beseeching the Lord's blessing on the College of Cardinals, and ignore all but the faithful Catholic media for news. This will unfold according to the Lord's will.
I will conclude with one last observation. Today's announcement comes on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I implore her intercession for Pope Benedict, the College of Cardinals, and all members of the faithful with the prayer of the Church's liturgy for today:
Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness,
that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God,
may, with the help of her intercession,
rise up from our iniquities.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.