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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Faith Helps James Foley Find Freedom...

"... Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.  Amen."

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."

Foley was the eldest of five children.  His parents are very devout and parishioners of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, New Hampshire, where a Mass was celebrated for family and friends Wednesday morning.

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]


Ana Cuervo said...

Thank you for writing such a great tribute! Yes, he is now free. We will never understand such evil in this world, The only thing that can explain the strength of his parents is faith and God meeting them on their darkest hour.....

Anonymous said...

There is not one single piece of historical evidence to prove that Jesus ever existed. Not one single scholar or historian from the first century AD mentioned even a single word about Jesus. That's pretty strange, considering that Jesus was supposed to have been some big public figure, going around raising the dead, performing miracles, with thousands of followers. Very odd indeed that not one single scholar or historian from that time period mentioned even a single word about Jesus.


Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Ana.
It's hard to imagine having to go through a painful experience of this magnitude but, as you say, only the strength gained by faith and God's peace can help them get through it.
God bless.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Anonymous that is an interesting point.

But, to me, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Former Atheist turned Christian, Lee Strobel, of "A Case for Christ" fame, once pointed out that people may be willing to die for something they sincerely believe is true but they are not willing to die for something they know is a lie.

With the exception of John, every other Apostle was martyred willingly, including St. Peter who was crucified upside down and St. Paul who was beheaded.

And, their followers, who learned directly from the Apostles, St. Ignatius of Antioch (fed to lions), St. Polycarp (burned at the stake and stabbed) and countless others, were also willing to die.

Unlike Islam, which spread through conquests and the sword, Christianity spread within persecution in the Roman Empire and spearheaded by 12 humble and mostly uneducated men.

Moreover, it was started in Jerusalem, the same place where Jesus was reportedly killed! In other words, if I'm going to start a hoax, I wouldn't start it where everyone can dispel the hoax, I would go far away!

And, yet Christianity spread. People believed and converted. And, within 300 years, it had spread throughout the entire empire.

There is a great observation by one of the Pharisees in the Acts of the Apostel. His name was Gamaliel, who said to the other Jewish leaders, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you proposed to do to these men. For some time ago, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him scattered. So, in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them – in that case you may even be found fighting God.”

By the way, unlike other ancient historical figures that were never written about for centuries after their death, Jesus was written about starting as early as 8 years after his death.

For more information, check out:

Hope this helps.

God bless.