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Friday, November 01, 2013

San Quentin

We have some more serious question with which to deal, but since today is a feast day and everyone has a Snickers hangover, I thought we could do something a little different.

At school on yesterday, the sixth grade teacher, Miss Vollmer, had the bright idea to celebrate the upcoming feast day of All Saints Day, to make an alphabetical list of saints. She put the whole alphabet up on the board and the children were invited to find saints that correspond to the letters. Some of that is really easy. St. Ann, St. Patrick, St. Peter and Paul, James and Mark.  And some caused a little more digging. St. Gerard is not a saint children are particularly familiar with, nor is St. Genesius or St. Expeditus.  And where does Maria Goretti go? With the M's or with the G's. Same problem for Mother Frances Cabrini. Is she an F or a C?

After that it came down to Google.

I whizzed in to inspect the list. There were a lot of questions about the various saints and of course, I don't need Google to tell you that St. Genesius is the patron saint of lawyers and actors. (Which is kind of funny if you think about it, because he had absolutely nothing to do with the law or lawyers and everything to do with actors. That indicates to me that somebody thinks that lawyers are really actors. We could easily make a case for that. Pardon the pun.)

And then I saw St. Quentin. San Quentin.  It really never occurred to me that the prison is named after a saint. San Quentin is synonymous prison the way Kleenex means a disposable hanky, the way Xerox means to copy something. And just who is St. Quentin anyhow and why is a prison named after him?

Who knows.  We really know almost nothing about the dear boy. What we do know about him is the stuff of legend, which is this: he was the son of a senator in the 3rd century and when he got the spirit, he was shackled and tortured. This went on for some time but he miraculously escaped.

I don't know what that means. I have to assume that it means it was actually miraculous, as in angels set him loose, as opposed to "Wow, he got loose while the guard was drunk! It's a miracle!"

In any case, he was captured again and shackled again and tortured again, but this time he was beheaded. Unlike St. Denis, St. Quentin did not take his head and stroll to a better part of town with it. His remains were tossed into the marshes, head and all.

There he stayed for five years until a blind woman found him. She didn't dig around in the marshes. She prayed and St. Quentin's remains rose up out of the marsh. Intact. I'm not sure if that just means he was incorrupt and his body and his head rose up, or he was in one piece again. I'm assuming that either way he was incorrupt. He had 'the odor of sanctity'. I suppose that's how she knew he had floated up out of the marsh, because she couldn't see him. Maybe he said, "Hi."  The blind woman took whatever that was in a cart and when the cart broke down she buried the saint right there on the spot. A chapel was built.

He was dug up one last time, this time to distribute his relics.

The prison, however is not named after the saint. It is named for where it stands, Point Quentin. Point Quentin is named for a Miwok warrior named Quentin who was imprisoned in that spot.

I have a hard time believing that. Why was a Miwok warrior named Quentin? It seems to me someone named HIM after the saint, which would mean the prison was named for him who was named for the saint.

He seems a very appropriate patron saint for a prison, don't you think?

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