By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington
Every third Wednesday of the month, for an hour, parishioners gather at the site of the Planned Parenthood office here in Bemidji. The office is a referral center for abortions which take place in Fargo, the Cities or elsewhere.
For some reason, during our time of prayer this month, I noticed the neighborhood in which the office is located. Located in a strip mall, on one side of Planned Parenthood is an American Family Insurance agency; on the other is Edward Jones. The paradox was obvious but I had never noticed it before. “Family” insurance, there to help and protect families and all those things which are part of living. Edward Jones is all about financial planning for life!
A couple doors down is Cherry Berry, a yogurt bar, one of my favorite spots in town; a place to celebrate the sweet things in life with friends.
A couple more doors to the south is a pet shop. Sad how pets, in this strip mall and in the world in general, have more rights than the child in the womb!
To the north is a small cafe which is to be avoided at all costs according to my doctor. They serve the best “turkey plate” in the business: lots of gravy and potatoes!
Across the way is Burger King, another constant temptation where chicken fries beckon me each time I pass by.
A stone’s throw across the street is a flower shop, a beauty salon and a pharmacy where people go to get healthy.
And there, in the midst of all those places that share in the many paths on the journey we call life, there sits Planned Parenthood with a mocking sign pasted at the entrance proclaiming “No guns allowed on the premises.” Indeed, no guns are needed at Planned Parenthood, yet it is the one place in our community where you can walk out having the information needed to put a child to death.
And so, as we pray, hundreds of cars pass by. Some honk in support, others honk or wave their finger in disgust. One passerby, during this past visit, yelled “bull” excrement at us. Without missing a beat, one in our group said quietly, “absolutely!” The driver was right, what Planned Parenthood promotes resembles what I shoveled for years on the farm growing up.
The silent scream from the womb falls on many deaf ears.
Are we not, as Americans, brave or courageous enough to offer health care to women and all our people which is solely committed to life and its dignity? Why must the most innocent among us pay the ultimate price for us to live as we wish under the disguise of “health care”?
The next day, Sunday, our same group attended Mass and heard the Gospel of the sower and the seed. My mind was flooded again with the obvious insight I had the day before. At one time or another, sometimes in the same day, our hearts are rich soil, stone cold or chocking with weeds.
All of us, from those who work at Planned Parenthood, to those who walk into their office seeking help and advice, to the priest who is praying outside ... we are all sinners. We are also the soil where God deliberately and generously scatters the seed of love, mercy and compassion, whether we accept it or not.
And still, as individuals and as a society, we must name the seeds of the evil one for what they are and where they are. In the innocent enough looking strip mall in Bemidji, as motorists scurry back and forth living their lives, there sits a dark chasm next to family businesses which offers the death of the innocent ones as a solution to the problems of life.
Our prayers will continue. First, praying that we can practice what we preach, and then falling to our knees begging God to end the scourge of abortion and the fear, loneliness and greed in our hearts which let it continue.