Marquette Magazine: Phone call home: A letter from James Foley

Posted by The_Elves

“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.

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Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq

4 Comments
Posted August 21, 2014 at 7:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Karen B. wrote:

Wow.  Wow.  What an absolutely amazing thing to read. 

I personally know a few people personally who have been imprisoned for their faith, and they have similar testimonies.  But this letter puts into words so well an extremely powerful truth, that through faith in Christ and prayer one can have inner freedom, even if physically held captive. 

Thanks be to God that James Foley knew that reality.  It comforts me greatly in the face of the news of his barbarous murder.

August 21, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
2. Katherine wrote:

I was glad to hear the news of James Foley’s Christian faith.  It means that he faced that terrible end knowing it was not the end, and that God would received him.

August 22, 8:16 am | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

That literally made me start to weep.  Forgive me if I share with you something of what I will say in my Sunday homily this weekend based on Matthew 16.13-20:

Jesus and the disciples are in the region of Caesarea Philippi.  In Caesarea Philippi there was a huge temple of white marble built by King Herod and dedicated to Caesar Augustus, hailing him as a god.  You could see the glistening white temple for miles around.  Now, imagine the scene.  Jesus, a humble man from among the people, giving them hope and encouragement.  Around him his followers, very ordinary men, fishermen, tax-collectors, the like.  You wonder, was it deliberately here that Jesus asked his followers who they believed in, who they trusted, where they pinned their allegiance.  Was it to him or to the glittering powers of the day symbolised by the pagan temple?

It must have seemed that power would be found in the pagan temple, linked to the Roman Empire and the king. But they are no more than a footnote in history.  Jesus turned to his weary, footsore band of fellow-pilgrims and said, in effect:  choose.  It was a huge leap of faith.  The ministry of Jesus must have seemed a fragile thing, that could be swept away at any moment.  In fact, a year or so later, Herod and Pilate thought that they had managed to do just that.

But Peter sees that Jesus is the Christ. The long-awaited promises of the coming of the Messiah are being fulfilled.  Peter and the other disciples, despite their weaknesses, will be rock-like foundations for the Church, on which God can build.  Their faith and love must seem so little against the powerful forces of the world.  It must feel the same today for the beleaguered Christians of Iraq.  When I see the masked faces of gunmen or evil executioners like those who killed James Foley this week, I see people who think that they have power.  But then you have to ask yourself, why do they keep their faces covered?  If they are so powerful, why hide their identity?  It is because, deep down, they are afraid.  Indeed, I would go further and say that despite the swashbuckling with guns, they are cowards. 

The men with masked faces and Kalashnikovs will learn the hard way that earthly power comes and goes, like that pagan temple.  But the City of God goes on eternally.  I would also remind them of the words of the one who had so little power that he hung upon a cross:

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These words come from true strength.  These words come from a faith that endures.  The men with the masked faces will create nothing.  They can only destroy.  True strength comes from the faith that creates justice, love and integrity.  Only if we have these then we can build under God that which endures

August 23, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

I too have just such a sense of sadness at this promising life cut short; but also gratitude for the life of James Foley and for the encouragement his witness, mature beyond his years, this letter so powerfully gives; as I have little doubt he now joins the souls under the altar [Rev 6:9].

Prayers for his family and friends left behind and all the others who have suffered and continue to suffer in Syria and Iraq.

August 25, 10:10 am | [comment link]
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