Thursday, August 21, 2014
Faith Helps James Foley Find Freedom...
That is the last line of the Hail Mary and may well have been the last words in the heart of American journalist James Foley, who was horrifically murdered by the Islamic terrorists group ISIS, while a camera captured the barbaric beheading.
Foley was no stranger to turmoil and violence. He had been reporting on the atrocities and casualties of war from the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, almost from the time he left his teaching career to become a journalist and graduated from Northwestern University's Merrill School of Journalism in 2008.
He disappeared in Syria, near the Turkey border, in November of 2012, a year and a half after being abducted and held hostage for 44 days in Libya, in April 2011. Family and friends had feverishly organized prayer vigils and a worldwide campaign for his release ever since.
Shortly, after Foley was released in Libya, he credited his faith with helping him get through the ordeal. In a letter to Marquette University's staff and students, the Catholic Jesuit school he had graduated from with a degree in history, before attending Merrill, he wrote:
"I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused."
Foley continued, "If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn't make sense, but faith did."
In an article I came across on the shock in Foley's hometown, the writer, Maeve Reston, points out that Fr. Paul Gausse, the family's parish priest, said to the grieving congregation, "There is no sense to be made of senselessness; you cannot find any kind of sanity in insanity.... We are not just praying for us and the Foley family, but praying for those who perpetrated this kind of evil. These people need prayers... This is being done in the name of God. How insane can that be?"
Fr. Gausse told reporters that when he visited the Foley family Tuesday night, James' mother Diane asked him, "Father pray for me that I don't become bitter. I don't want to hate."
Outside their Rochester home, Foley's mom spoke about how proud they were of him because of his great compassion for the suffering in Syria. Breaking down in tears, she said, “We just thank God for the gift of Jim.”
Foley's father, John added, "He was courageous to the end and I think he accepted his situation and I think he accepted God's faith in him and his faith in God... We believe he was a martyr; a martyr for freedom... It's difficult to find solace at this time, but we know Jimmy's free. He's finally free. And we know he's in God's hands... and we know he's in heaven."
I can't imagine the pain and horror Foley felt as the brutal executioner slashed his neck but hopefully, within his many Hail Marys and the prayers of countless of other people over the past 20 months, as his father said, he found that innermost freedom that can only be ascertained through faith, hope and trust in God...
"Pray for us, Oh Holy Mother of God now, and at the hour of our death. Amen."
[photo credit: Steven Senne/AP]