When I heard that there had been a shrine erected on a state highway 14 miles southwest of Coalinga, California I had to go see it. Apparently, several people have seen the Virgin Mary appear at the site. Over time, people began building a shrine where the sightings had been. There are a few points to this story that make it interesting.
First, I’ll say the obvious. Why would the Virgin Mary appear several times at a place that is extremely remote? Not that I would begin to guess what she’s thinking, but it seems as though, if she were to appear, that she would pick a place visible to more people.
Then, how is it that a shrine, complete with steps, a handrail, streamers, a bench, and the shrine itself, possibly get carved into a side of a mountain on a state highway without Caltrans knowing about it. People have to park on the other side of the road and cross two lanes of highway on a curve to get to it.
And, why would anyone take such time and effort to construct such a thing? They would have had to have brought in forms and cement for the stairs, flatten the space for the shrine, etc. In the shrine itself, there are many candles burning and there appears that someone is maintaining the area. It looks like visitors bring flowers, banners, candles, etc. and place around the area. Some have drawn pictures on the rocks and written Bible passages.
Finally, why would anyone drive 1 ½-2 hours one way to see the shrine? I can answer that one. Because it’s so weird on several different levels. It was worth the drive. The bonus was that we enjoyed an amazing lunch at Harris Ranch on the way home.
Epilogue: Due to the public’s sensitivity of the site, it was arranged to have the shrine and its surrounding mélange of mementos moved to a nearby monastery. I wonder. Will The Virgin appear at the new site? Or at the original site? Or not at all? I’ll report back.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.