By the time bells tolled calling the Catholic faithful in the Houston area to midday mass, the news for many had just begun to sink in.
For the first time in six centuries, a Holy Father would be stepping down before death, relinquishing the role of "Vicar of Christ."
"600 years is a long time, so it's courageous for him to feel it's better for the church for him to step down," said Father Andy Thompson of Holy Ghost Parish.
At St. Vincent de Paul the shock felt by many at Benedict's sudden, unexpected, decision was visibly tempered during these turbulent times by an abiding faith in the Church's future.
"Trust in his prayer that he is doing what is best for himself and the entire church," said parishioner Dee Ann Ennis.
"Our faith is strong. We are built on rock and it is all good, whatever happens and we will continue to pray for him," said parishioner Eileen Svoboda.
"It's a shock for sure, but you have to go on and you kind of realize that in prayer and trust, things will be okay," said parishioner Bobby Bellard.
At downtown's Holy Cross Chapel Fox 26 News sought out the insight of Father Michael Barrett.
"I admire the man for making that choice," said Fr. Barrett.
Ordained to the priesthood by Pope John Paul II, Fr. Barrett served in the Vatican for five years and came to know Benedict on a personal level before he became pontiff.
He views the stunning departure as consistent with Benedict's deeply caring practicality.
"Maybe its a sign of the times that we are in, where everything is much faster and everything moves quickly and I think he realized you need somebody who is more on his toes to be able to handle this," said Fr. Barrett.