Santa Maria
Santa Maria, California, is the site of a set of apparitions of
the Virgin Mary to Barbara Matthias that began on March 24,
1990. Santa Maria, a town on California’s central coast, had
been the site since 1970 of several active charismatic prayer
groups. Within the groups, charismatic gifts, especially spiritual
healing and prophecy, had been common. Several members
of the groups periodically received locutions, direct communications
via telepathy, from Jesus. In the 1980s these groups
had become a center of Marian piety and many had received
with enthusiasm the news of the apparitions that were occurring
at Medjugorje, in Yugoslavia (Bosnia). Eventually, a
prayer group centered on the Medjugorje events would arise.
In 1987, a young couple, Charlie and Carol Nole, attended
a Holy Spirit seminar, a class to introduce the idea of the range
of charismatic spiritual gifts (as mentioned in the Bible in 1 Corinthians
12) to new members of the charismatic prayer groups.
The following year, on March 24, 1988, Carol began receiving
locutions from the Virgin Mary. She was subsequently told to
place a cross on a hill north of Santa Maria and given instructions
as to its size and exact location. The project to place a
cross on the hill was tied to the message of peace from the visionaries
in Medjugorje and Santa Maria was designated a
‘‘City of Peace.’’ In September the prayer group that the Noles
attended was finally informed of the messages that Carol had
been receiving and plans were made to publish them. A booklet,
‘‘A Cross Will Be Built. . .,’’ was released in March of 1989.
A movement grew up around the crusade to place a cross on
the designated hill, but was blocked as the site was on private
land and the owner had indicated his unwillingness to cooperate
with the project. Groups began to gather on the highway
right away near the hill, and their daily prayer meetings became
a matter of media interest. Media coverage attracted visitors
from across California, among them Barbara Matthias.
Matthias reported that the Virgin had appeared to her as
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, a popular image in
Roman Catholic circles since the apparitions at Lourdes. After
the first few apparitions, Mary began to appear daily, usually
in the later afternoon. Matthias would enter a trance-like state
and stay in that state for several hours, on occasion approaching
six hours. Crowds gathered in the afternoon and often
stayed late into the evening. Many reported various unusual
phenomena, including a dancing sun, the well-known miracle
that so many had seen the day of the last apparitions at Fatima.
However, no general miracles such as those that occurred at
Fatima were reported. The attention to the apparitions completely
overwhelmed the movement to erect the cross on the
still-inaccessible hill.
On March 29, 1990, Mgr. John H. Rohde, Matthias’ spiritual
director, expressed some doubts about the apparitions. As a
result, the public apparitions ceased in May of 1990, but Matthias
continued to receive daily apparitions privately. In 1991,
a request was made for an investigation of Matthias by the Diocese
of Monterey. An agreement to proceed was reached in
June of 1991. In October of 1991 she went to Berkeley, California,
and underwent the first of a series of tests that would be
conducted over the period of a year. These ruled out a number
of alternative explanations for her apparitions, and Mgr.
Rohde announced that all of his questions had been favorably
While the diocese has yet to rule on the apparitions to Matthias,
in 1993 a book was published that recounted the history
of the apparitions, summarized the testings, and offered the
opinions of various people, including Fr. René Laurentin, the
famous French Mariologist. While public apparitions have not
resumed, a group of people in Santa Maria now circulate the
messages received and are attempting to implement the admonitions
contained therein, much of which is directed to the
Catholic community of the region.
Castro, J. Ridley. Mary’s Plan The Madonna Comes to Santa
Maria. Santa Barbara, Calif. Queenship Publishing, 1993.