The news broke late yesterday that Islamic State jihadists executed freelance journalist James Foley and posted a video of his beheading. Foley, 40, had been missing for two years while covering the conflict in Syria. I am not going to link to the video or include screen shots from it, but I will share another link that has been circulating since the news of Foley’s brutal death: an article he wrote for the alumni magazine of Marquette University, his alma mater. The piece is about the time Foley spent imprisoned in Libya in 2011:
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.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone. …
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. … Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”
“Jimmy, where are you?”
“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.” …
“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.
“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.
The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.
“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.
I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.
My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. 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.
Update 8/22: The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Pope Francis telephoned Foley’s family and offered his condolences:
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope phoned relatives of the late James Foley on Aug. 21 to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers.
The call to the Foley family in Rochester, New Hampshire, came in the afternoon New Hampshire time. Father Lombardi released no additional details. …
President Obama called Foley’s parents, John and Diane Foley, Aug. 20 before addressing the nation about their son’s death and told them: “We are all heartbroken.”
When the president was making his televised remarks about James Foley’s death, his parents spoke to reporters on the front yard of their home.
“We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,” said Diane Foley.
She added that he was “a courageous, fearless journalist — the best of America.”
John Foley told reporters: “We think his strength came from God,” and his wife interjected: “We know it did.”