When Bl. Pope John Paul II died in 2005 I was a junior at Thomas Aquinas College in California. I remember praying the rosary during his final hours — we all had tears in our eyes, but it was a peaceful sadness. I thoroughly enjoyed the days that followed; praying a lot of course, but also watching the novemdiales on EWTN, reading Universi Dominici Gregis over and over, and speculating about who the next Pope would be. I envied my younger brother a bit who spent the whole period of the vacancy of the Apostolic See in Rome, but I enjoyed holding forth on things to people who knew less about the Cardinals. I remember telling one of my classmates that I thought the next Pope would be a disciple of Cardinal Ratzinger’s: Scola or Schönborn or even Ouellet. She asked me “What about Ratzinger himself?” I said that that would be wonderful, that I loved Cardinal Ratzinger, that I thought everything he wrote ought to be inscribed on tablets of gold, but that I didn’t think it would happen.
A few days later, as I came out of class, people were saying that white smoke had gone up. We all crowded into the chaplain’s house, which had the only TV on campus, and waited. Then Cardinal Medina-Estevez appeared on the street and greeted us in as many languages as he could think of, and then began to make the announcement as s l o w l y as possible. As soon as he said “Josephum” we started shouting YES!!YES!! We already knew who it was before he went any further… It was almost too good to be true.