A young priest recently helped a distressed homeless woman bring two young lives into the world. He shared the remarkable story with Catholic Extension and now is wondering what God was trying to tell him through the extraordinary experience.

Father Jesús Mariscal is the parochial vicar at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, Washington. He stepped out of the rectory in September for what he thought would be a quick trip to buy doughnuts for a marriage preparation meeting with an engaged couple.

As he walked past the statue of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, located on the cathedral grounds, he noticed a homeless woman in distress standing near it.

She was screaming frantically, “I need help! I’m having a baby!”

Mariscal couldn’t believe it at first. But he looked closely and saw blood at her feet. She cried out, “I’m having it now! I’m having it now!”

He called 911 and helped the woman lie down. He put his phone on speaker and placed it on the ground so he could follow the 911 operator’s instructions. Within seconds the woman gave birth to a baby boy. Mariscal handed the crying boy to the woman.

“I’m having another!” she shouted to the shocked priest.

Mariscal helped deliver the second boy. He told the 911 operator the child was still in the amniotic sac, the protective membrane that surrounds a child in the womb. Mariscal saw the baby moving inside it.

The 911 operator told him to break it open. This proved more difficult than expected. With precious time evaporating and no tools at his disposal, the priest was finally able to burst the sac with his hands, only to find the tiny infant wasn’t breathing.

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His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. The operator told Mariscal to lay the child on his side and gently tap him on the back.

After a few terrifying moments, the baby started to cry, announcing his arrival into the world. Mariscal placed the second child in the woman’s lone free arm.

The morning air was chilly, so he ran inside to get towels. Finally, the paramedics arrived.

Mariscal texted the couple he was supposed to meet for marriage preparation. “I’m sorry I’m late for our appointment. I was just helping a lady deliver twins,” he wrote.

Assuming it was a joke to excuse his tardiness, they responded: “LOL Father. You don’t have to lie.”

‘What is God trying to tell me?’

The woman and twin boys were taken to the hospital. The babies were born prematurely, at 30 weeks.

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The priest has visited them in the hospital, and they are doing well. He does not know the exact nature of the mother’s situation in life. She left the hospital a few hours after being admitted, and as far as anyone knows she has not yet returned.

“It’s a beautiful story on one side, but heartbreaking on the other,” said the priest, whose own beloved mother passed away earlier in the year.

“It was a surreal experience,” he said. “It was like something from a movie.”

“I was there holding a baby with my bloody hands, and the baby was all bloody as well, and I’m dressed in clerics. And I’m a priest in front of the shrine of Our Lady. And I was thinking, ‘What is God trying to tell me? What are you trying to tell me, God? What is this about?’”

He shared the experience at Mass the next day with parishioners, who also thought the priest was telling an “apocryphal” story that had no actual basis in reality.

But the reality is that there are two new babies who have come into this world thanks to his quick thinking and action. And, although they entered the world at a disadvantage, like Jesus, with “no place to rest their heads,” there is hope these children will be raised with love.

So, what might God have been saying to Mariscal through this experience?

Perhaps that life is precious and fragile, and that a Church that rallies around the disadvantaged, the homeless, the naked, the defenseless, and the vulnerable is the kind of Church that Christ intended to build.

Mariscal, who was ordained in 2018, said this story should be “about the mother and the babies and how they are. The twins and the woman are the protagonists of God’s love. They and people like them on the peripheries of our own communities are the ones God is calling us to embrace with our service and love for our neighbors.”

This story was first published Nov. 14, 2023, at Catholic Extension and is adapted and reprinted here with permission.