In 1984, a sonogram caused a crisis in the life of Rosa Silva – an expectant mother living in Chile. The sonogram of her swelling uterus gave an indication that she was harboring an unborn child with serious abnormalities. Her attending physicians insisted that she was expecting a child with three arms and two heads, which for most people presented a monstrous prospect. They insisted that she choose abortion and thus end the life of her progeny.
Rosa did not make that choice. She insisted that she was willing to accept “what God wills.” And what God sent her was not an abnormal child, but two very normal boys. And without having made the choice for life, Rosa would not have given birth to a pair of boys who share not only physical similarities but also a special vocation: both of them are now Catholic priests.
Fathers Felipe and Paulo Lizama have shared since their birth the same liking for sports, having played in the minor leagues of the Colo-Colo soccer club. While they both made the choice to answer a call to the priesthood, it was a response that surprised more than a few of their companions.
In an interview with the ACI news agency, the two priests spoke of the extraordinary and moving circumstances of their birth. Their parents – Humberto Lizama and Rosa Silva – were both paramedics and were already the parents of a girl named Paola who was four years old at the time. The family lived near the Chilean seaside city Valparaíso.
Rosa was exposed to x-rays during her work as a paramedic and was not initially aware that she was pregnant. As soon as she realized her condition, she sought a sonogram. Her physician said that he saw “something weird” about her gestating twins, and told her “the baby has three arms and legs that are somewhat tangled.” Besides, he said, the baby “has two heads,” according to Father Paulo.
Even while abortion was permitted in Chile at that time for “therapeutic” reasons, and her doctors said that her life was in danger because of such a strange pregnancy, Rosa opposed the procedure and instead accepted what “what God wills.”
Both Felipe and Paulo said of the incident, “The Lord acted and created a twin pregnancy; I don’t know whether the physician was just mistaken,” while adding “I always reflect with special love and tenderness in my heart that my mother gave her life for me, for us.”
The Lizama twins were born on September 10, 1984. Felipe came first and, since he was not free of his placenta, the doctors advised dilation and curettage - the scraping Rosa’s uterus and removal of tissue. She refused since she believed that another child was yet to be born. Paulo did see the light just 17 minutes later.
“This last episode is very significant for me: the doctors used some instruments to pull out the placenta that delayed my exit. My mother knew that I was there. I was delayed, but I came out,” said Father Paulo, who added that if the doctors had resorted to the scraping, “it is likely that they would have seriously wounded me.”
It was not until their sixth year of formation as priests that the twins learned the story of their birth. “Without a doubt, the wisdom and heart of a mother allowed that at the right moment we would learn of such a beautiful event,” said Father Paulo.
The twins had long considered going into the priesthood, which was made possible because of their mother’s choice. Father Paulo added, “How can one not defend life? How can one not proclaim a God of life? This event empowered my vocation and gave it a special vitality and also allowed me to give myself fully to what I believe. I am convinced that what I believe, what I am, and what I say, is clearly from God.”
With their mother's support and approval the Lizama brothers ultimately entered a seminary and become priests. In high school, it was sports and church activities that occupied their time as they both entertained their respective calling to the priesthood. Both are now assigned to duties at parishes in Chile.
Reflecting on the call to the priesthood, Father Felipe advised young people “God does not play with us. He wants us to be happy, and the priesthood is a beautiful vocation that makes us utterly happy.” While heeding the call from Christ is not easy, it is wonderful. “Jesus, the Church and the world need us. But they don’t need just any young person: they need young people who are strong in the truth of God, such that their lives instills life, their smile conveys hope, their gaze shows faith, and their actions betray love,” concluded Father Felipe.