I cried the first time promptly after finishing the last two sentences:
"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."
I was on our bed with Grace, and she giggled as I briefly cried, finished changing her diaper, put her down for a nap, and went upstair to Will's office.
I announced to him that I finally knew what I would write about for my Ignitum Today post due on Friday: an essay by James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS, for his alma mater Marquette University. It was written in 2011, after he was released from captivity in Libya.
He wrote about the power of prayer. He wrote about saying the rosary in his cell: the 100 Hail Marys on his knuckles; an Our Father between every 10 Hail Marys; how praying the rosary, like his mother and grandmother would do, helped keep his mind clear.
He prayed out loud with his colleague, Clare: "It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone."
He wrote about his conversation with his mother, and how prayer penetrates hearts, minds, and across continents:
“I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”That vision of the community of saints -- I couldn't shake it from me -- and how one person's faith can ground reality into another person. I thought about saying prayers with Grace before bed, and night prayers with Will before going to sleep. I thought about how much I struggle with getting to daily mass, and the constant distractions posed to each of us in an attempt to dissuade us from praying more and more - to lessen our communication with God.
“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends... Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.
“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.
There is a violent, religious war going on in the world. People are attempting to shape the world in their own image - an image of what they imagine Heaven should be, and are instead creating Hell. People are being beheaded, killed, raped, starved, exiled, beaten and tortured.
I am at home, bemoaning the laundry that has piled up, and that I need to clean up the downstairs before our babysitter candidate comes over for her interview. I know the work I do is important - taking care of one's family and home is a noble duty. But I need to seek more solitude and joy from the act of praying and the love of Scripture. I read when I "have time" and pray "when I can" -- but they should be more ingrained in our life. They should have more priority seating. My God is worth glorifying, and my faith is worth strengthening.
James Foley - may the angels sing you home, and may God welcome you into Heaven. Thank you for your words. Thank you for your witness. May the Lord continue to bless your family, and may they find solace in your life, heart and faith. Thank you for reminding me that the freedom of religion is not only a legal protection, but the freedom to practice my faith in both public and private. The freedom, as Blessed John Paul II said, to do what we ought.