Those of us who were privileged to cover up close Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States (the onsite OSV team included me, Publisher Greg Erlandson, Contributing Editors Russ Shaw and Mary DeTurris Poust, and Correspondent Kimberley Heatherington, along with others) are experiencing some exhaustion, sure, from the intensity of focus and lack of sleep this past week. (And if you tried calling anybody at the communications office for the bishops' conference yesterday, you know that they all took a deserved day off to recuperate.)
But at least for me, exhaustion is not what's defining me right now. (I get tomorrow to recuperate at home.) I'm inspired, recharged, awestruck and eager to implement a whole host of ideas -- both personal and professional -- generated by the pope's presence and words.
I spent eight years as a Vatican-accredited journalist in Rome, met Pope John Paul II a dozen times and saw him up close scores of times. I also interviewed once and met on multiple occasions Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He blessed my oldest child (who is now 9) in the womb; my wife ran into him in St. Peter's Square early one morning as he was walking alone to work, and asked him to bless our baby in utero. As if he was any other priest, he did so quietly and naturally, and with his now familiar smile wished her all the best with her new motherhood.
So for me, the excitement of seeing him does not come from a "once in the lifetime" moment. Nor is it from close contact with some famous person surrounded by a muscular security retinue. What struck me were, especially, what he said, how he said it, his unmistakable sincerity and his unmistakable prayerful integrity.
I cannot wait to go back and reread everything that Pope Benedict said during his visit. And then I'll probably read it again. And again.
If you've only followed his visit through news coverage, I urge you to set aside a little time to read his texts (which are available at the Vatican website here.) And when you're done, I bet you'll have a pretty good idea of what I'm feeling now. Come back here and let me know what struck you especially.