Castor Oil

When I was a child, one thing that caused me much terror was "aceite de castor" (castor oil) which my mother forced me and my siblings to take when she felt we needed it. It tasted awful and disgusting. It was called "purga," which she said was to cleanse our intestines for possible worm (bulate) or to treat constipation by helping the hard stool to come out.

One other way she did this was to administer an enema, to immediately clean out the intestines. I remember that after an enema I felt comfortable.

Today is "All Souls' Day" in the Church calendar. It is the day the Universal Church remembers the souls of our departed, those who are members of the Church Suffering. This group is composed of those who died in the state of grace but who still need to undergo purgation or cleansing in what is aptly called "purgatory."

Unfortunately, those who died in the state of mortal sin are not included because they are in hell and cannot be cleansed anymore like the rich man (in the story of the beggar and the rich man) who went there but could not get out anymore.

Some people do not believe in the existence of hell because they say it is against the mercy of God. Some do not believe in the existence of purgatory either for the same reason.

Many times in Scripture, our Lord Jesus clearly taught the existence of hell, another word for this is "Gehenna" where the damned will wail and gnash their teeth forever. Some others believe there is no purgatory but only heaven because they say Jesus has saved us from our sins and we just have to accept Him as our Lord and Savior and we automatically go to heaven.

Scripture is also clear about the existence of purgatory. The Book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 12:46) says that "it is holy and wholesome to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." That is why we offer prayers for all our dead. We do not know where they are, because we do not know how they lived and died.

The existence of hell shows God's justice. The existence of purgatory shows God's mercy. In our lives God always gives us the grace to live a truly Christian life. But we still sin due to human weakness, and sin has consequences. It stains our souls. We cannot enter the Holy of Holies unless we ourselves are holy.

My mom did the right thing by giving me castor oil and enema to cleanse out my intestines from unhealthy matter.

God in His abundant mercy provides for the purgation and cleansing of souls and then grants them union with Him in His Heavenly Home.

Let us pray for our beloved dead at least before we go to bed. Someday they will also pray for us, that we may win our struggle against sin and evil and then get to heaven to be with God forever.#

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