After the initial shock of this news resided, I looked back over papal/curial decisions in recent months and could see that some of these may well have been Papa Benny preparing for his own departure (for I am certain this decision was long-discerned).
And then I felt ashamed of my lack of virtue. My fear betrayed that my great love for and trust in the holy father laid not in the Vicar of Christ nor in the Holy Spirit but in Joseph Ratzinger. Surely this great man has been an inspiration to me personally, and has had great impact on my life, but ought I not to have more faith in the Holy Spirit Himself!? At the very least, should my unshakable faith in our dear Papa not extend to trusting his decisions?
I readily admit that the sorrow at the loss of such a wonderful pope has not sunk in yet at all. But it is natural to look to the future, and in this vein, I offer a few thoughts of comfort.
-The Church has had a possibly unprecedented string of holy (arguably saintly) popes in the past hundred years or so. This seems to be something that most Catholics value (save those who take it for granted).
-That doctrine your friends/family/co-workers are hoping will be changed with the next pope? No danger of that happening.
-You know that cardinal whose name people keep mentioning, but you think he'd be a terrible pope because of XYZ? You can be sure that other cardinals, who are paying much more attention to each other than you are, have noticed said character flaw (or whatever) in his person, even if your Catholic friends or well-known journalists don't. I wouldn't be too concerned.
And even if the next pope is a man whose election concerns you, perhaps you can take some comfort in this legend I heard in a lecture in grad school:
Back in the heyday of the Arian controversy, there was an influential queen who reeeeeally wanted Church teaching changed to the Arian position (because obviously her opinion was the correct one). So she schemed and whatnot, and sure enough, when the pope died, and her right-hand man, a prominent Arian bishop, was elected to be his successor.
...at which time this devoted Arian pulled a complete 180 and supported the true doctrine of Jesus' divinity.
Pope St Celestine V, pray for us, for Pope Benedict, and for the man who will be our next pope.
Holy Spirit, increase my trust in you.