For the same reason that we call the day Jesus was scourged and crucified “Good,” a terrible beauty has emerged following the brutal ISIS beheading of Global Post reporter, James Foley. As members of his parents’ parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, NH, we had united in prayer many times, first to pray for Jim’s release during his 44 day imprisonment in Libya, and then again to implore that he be released from his Syrian imprisonment.
After Jim was released from prison in Libya, he came here to St. Charles Children’s Home in Rochester, NH to thank the Sisters and children for praying for his safe return. It was the first time I had ever met him, and so, it was with some hesitancy that I told him that, during his Libyan imprisonment, I had been praying for him particularly one Saturday morning when his parents were attending Mass at St. Charles. When I received Holy Communion that day, Jesus said to me, “I am going to release him, but first I have to release him from his inner prisons.” As soon as he heard this, Jim smiled and said, “That is what happened! Before this experience, I was just focusing on being the top reporter; this has changed my whole perspective on what is important.” Then he began to talk about how much praying the Rosary had helped him during his imprisonment. I was happy to hear this, and I suggested that he consecrate himself to Jesus through Mary.
Also, because he was grieved about his photographer friend who had been killed at the time they were captured, I talked to him about how St. Padre Pio had said that we can pray for the happy death of people who have already died. This is because God is outside of time and equally present to all times. Seeing our future prayer, He can apply it in a present situation. Before Jim left that day, I gave him a Brown Scapular which he began to wear immediately. This sacramental is considered to represent Our Lady’s mantle wrapped around her Child. I know that during both of his imprisonments Jim was surrounded both by his own mother’s loving prayers and by the Love of the Mother of God. It is also noteworthy that after his release from prison in Libya, Jim always wore a cord Rosary on his right wrist which had been given to him by a good friend of his mother’s, Jackie Pelletier.
Jim was always reaching out to help other people. He organized a fundraiser in New York City for the widow of his photographer friend who had been killed in Libya. When asked by our pastor, Father Paul Gousse, why he was going back into such danger in Syria, Jim replied that he had to do it so that he could be a voice for the people who were being trampled underfoot like the grass.
After Jim was killed, his loving influence was amazingly magnified. This was so evident on the Saturday after his death, when a group of Muslims, some of them from Syria, organized a candlelight vigil in Jim’s honor on the Rochester Commons. One of them told how Jim had raised money in Syria to buy a much needed ambulance for the people. Many Muslims spoke of how grateful they were for all he had done for their people. It was very beautiful to experience such a deep unity of prayer between Muslims and Christians that occurred that night on the Commons. As we were leaving, Sister Esther Marie stopped to speak to and hug a Muslim woman who tearfully told her, “People have said that I’m a bad person, but I’m not a bad person.”
The day after this vigil, there was a Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church for Jim. Being present at that Mass was an extremely profound experience because it was such a witness to the power of love overcoming hatred. I have never seen the Church more crowded than it was that day, but the amazing thing was that despite the terrible injustice of this murder, there were no expressions of bitterness or vengeance at all — only a very tangible and powerful presence of love. Even the reporters seemed very touched by this. One reporter posted to Jim’s Facebook page saying, “I never believed in Heaven, Jim, until you got there!”
Last October 18th, we gathered for a special Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to pray for Jim’s release and to celebrate his 40th birthday. At that time Fr. Paul pointed out how significant it is that Jim, whose life was dedicated to reporting the truth, and who was imprisoned in Syria, was born on the feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist (who was from Antioch in Syria). A year later it seems even more significant — St. Luke died as a martyr, giving witness to the Truth!
Jackie Pelletier (who had given Jim the cord Rosary) told me that at the Mass on St. Luke’s feast last year (Jim’s 40th birthday), when she received Holy Communion, Jesus had said to her, “I am going to release him; but more people have to be converted first.” I think that on hearing this Jim would smile and say, “That is what happened!”
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