The abrupt resignation of Pope Benedict XVI may have caught the rest of the world off guard, but a Ferndale family who met him and took communion at the Vatican last fall says they were surprised, but not necessarily shocked.
Elsa Finkbonner says the Pontiff was clearly showing the strains of age when they met last October.
“He appeared very fragile, very tired. The day of the canonization was very hot and I think he was really exhausted," she said.
Elsa’s son Jake is the "miracle boy" who lived when he should have died and helped a saint become a saint. When he was five years old flesh eating bacteria attacked Jake's face and nearly killed him.
The family and the church credit the intercession of Blessed Kateri, a Native American holy woman propelled to sainthood by that final miracle, by Jake's survival and healing. It was her canonization that brought the Finkbonners to the Vatican and gave the pope a personal connection to a local boy.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain says it was also a contact, through Jake, to church members all over and to this region.
“In that way I think the Holy Father has touched Western Washington in a profound way,” said the Archbishop.
The Archbishop and church leaders everywhere say the resignation was a surprise but even Jake Finkbonner, now 12, recognized age taking a toll.
“Up close the features on his face really showed that he was tired,” said Jake.
And while the world waits for the College of Cardinals to name a new Pope next month, the kid from Ferndale who beat the odds and earned a place in church history, offers a message to Benedict the 16th.
“I would certainly hope that he still stays connected to God. I hope he would still do daily prayers and maybe some masses now and then. I just hope he continues to do what he's been doing for others,” he said.