When James Foley became a martyr this week, I didn’t know much about him. I vaguely remember the news of his capture in 2012, since he is from nearby New Hampshire. We all have learned more about him quickly, just as we’ve learned more about Syrian politics, more about radicalization, hate and terror from the hideous actions of his murderers.
When I saw that he had gone to Marquette University I felt that familiar excitement of learning someone admirable is a fellow Jesuit-school alum. I was even more moved to read the piece he wrote about faith and prayer in Marquette’s magazine after the end of his first imprisonment abroad.
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.
Not the words the world expects from a seasoned, weary, Gen X-er.
When he wrote that, did he have any idea what a large audience it would someday have? Probably not. When he lived a life of generosity and faith did he know that one day people would look carefully at his life for consolation? Doubtful.
If someone were to look back at my words – if the world were suddenly paying attention – would they find inspiration? Do I care enough about being a person of faith to be one even when no one is looking?
We write our legacies every day, in blogs and social media, in letters and texts. We write it in the way we live our lives, often in an obscurity that can be deceptive.
I am grateful that James Foley wrote a legacy of faith before the eyes of the world were on him, so that our eyes could be opened.