When a believer is immersed in the rosary, the familiar phrases of the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Doxology find a soft rhythm, as clicking beads mix with steady breaths and the human heart.
While meditating on each great mystery of the faith, the final words of the Hail Mary prayers are particularly sobering: "Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
The prayers are "like a pulse that sinks deep inside and goes on and on as you meditate on how these mysteries are connected to your life," said writer Elizabeth Scalia, known as "The Anchoress" among Catholic bloggers.
"I think all the mysteries would have offered inspiration and consolation to James Foley" while in captivity, she said, as he "faced the fact that his life was truly in danger."
It's hard not to ask: Was Foley still praying the rosary as he knelt with an Islamic State guard's knife at his throat?
During his earlier captivity, in a Libyan jail, Foley began praying in hope that his mother would "know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her," he wrote, in a 2011 letter to priests and students at Marquette University, his alma mater.
"I began to pray the rosary," he added. "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."
After his release, Foley watched a video from a Marquette vigil on his behalf, which included a speech that resembled a "best man speech and a eulogy in one." It was another link to a larger body, he said, evidence that "prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released. ... It didn't make sense, but faith did."
After Foley's hellish death, beheaded on camera by an Islamic State guard, his parents faced reporters and said they were proud of his calling to "bear witness" to truth and thankful, once again, for their family's ties of faith.
"Jim was very loved, very proud to be a journalist," Diane Foley told reporters, outside their New Hampshire home. She added, "How do you make sense out of someone as good as Jim meeting such a fate? There's so much evil in this world."
John Foley said he believed his son "was a martyr -- a martyr for freedom."
In commentaries online, some Catholics have begun asking if the 40-year-old journalist may have been a martyr -- period. In an interview with NBC, his siblings Michael and Katie claimed that Pope Francis had called Foley "a martyr," during a telephone call to the family.
A key fact in this discussion is that Islamic State fighters have consistently offered their victims a chance to save their own lives -- by converting to Islam. In an online essay, former L'Osservatore Romano staffer Pia de Solenni noted that it was also likely that Foley's social-media savvy guards were aware that he was a Catholic, as well as a U.S. citizen.
"Martyrdom is not something that happened a long time ago in ancient Rome. ... It's something that's happening a lot, most -- if not all -- of the time," she wrote. "If it takes the death of James Foley for us to realize that people are dying because of their faith every day, then that makes him even more of a witness to the truth."
It's almost impossible to believe, noted Scalia, that Foley was not pressed to convert during his captivity and, thus, to abandon his Christian faith. This may have happened, again, as he faced the immediate threat of execution.
"You know that they tried to get James Foley to do that," she said. "Clearly, he refused to do it."
If so, it's hard not to think about the rosary prayers, once again, she said. It's easy to see the relevance of meditating on the First Sorrowful Mystery, when Jesus knows that he is facing his own death. Thus, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus prays, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."