Thanks to modern over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, I've had the first decent night's sleep I've had since November, and am feeling physically better, but not one tiny lick further ahead than last night when I gave up trying to think of something to write about This Thing that would not come off sounding crazy.
We like to forget that there are large supernatural realities behind our day-to-day lives, and most specifically behind the ecclesial realities we talk and write so much about. We like to keep that spooky stuff at bay and reduce it all to silly small talk on the internet. But that is the really Real behind all this and it is often not the sort of thing one makes polite table conversation about.
My sense of foreboding has deepened, if anything, as I've weighed in more of the many different things this act of Benedict's will affect, the various possible reasons, the possible repercussions. Stuck between two impossible obstacles: what I think is true is horrifying and would not be accepted; what I think I can write that would be accepted is not true.
I can't bring myself to do what everyone else seems to be doing, and put up cheery little stars and hearts notes on Facebook about how we're all grateful for eight wonderful years and wish him well in all his future endeavours. The thought that keeps coming back to my mind again and again is that now things are going to start getting much, much worse.
Benedict's was, perhaps, the lone voice on the world stage making a rational case for the Real in the face of an insane, murderous, global mass self-delusion. What was he holding at bay? What is now going to have even more freedom to act in the world? From the things I've written about for the last ten or twelve years, I think I've got an idea.
And I'm not sure that we glib and flippant moderns are really capable of grasping the utter strangeness of a papal abdication. My first reaction to it was simple confusion. A friend called me from the states while I was napping, and my muzzy brain simply couldn't grasp what he was saying. "Pope Benedict has resigned". No. Stop saying that. That doesn't mean anything.
How quick we are, with our five-second, internet-trained attention span, to be ready to move on to the next news item. How quick we all were to start making childish conversation about who was "going to be next". As though the fact that Benedict has resigned is a sign of absolutely nothing of interest.
Last night I talked with my buddy Chris Ferrara (who seems perfectly cheerful as always) as he was putting this together. Some of what I'm thinking about is in there. But not all.