A path leading to the unknown in a forest
Hello there Rosary lovers! In this post I would like to address the question: what do I have to do to get to heaven?

This is a question many of us ask or have asked in our lives. Unfortunately, it is also a question that these days a lot of people are not asking.

This is because they either don’t believe in heaven, or they assume that if there is a heaven probably everyone will go there automatically.

I am going to assume in this post that you do believe in heaven. I also presume that you aren’t convinced that everyone automatically goes there, and that it’s a good idea to prepare somehow.

Hell MIGHT be empty …

First of all, let’s say that the holy Catholic Church nowhere teaches that anyone is actually in hell. The Church does teach there is a hell, prepared for the Devil and his angels. So some of God’s creatures will be in hell forever: the Devil and all fallen angels (demons). We know this.

But as for human beings, we simply don’t know whether anyone will be in hell. This is not something that has been revealed to the Catholic Church.

This is important, because it MAY be the case that everyone will eventually land up in heaven. It’s possible.

It’s far from certain, however. There is a very real possibility that some or many of us will not make it to heaven ever, and will be cut off from God forever in hell. Jesus Christ spoke about hell a lot, because he didn’t want anyone to go there. He knew it was a real danger for humans. We need to realise this and prepare ourselves against it.

So what can we do?

Get Baptised!

A stained glass window icon of Christ's being baptised

The single most important thing we can do is to get baptised if we haven’t already been baptised.

‘What is baptism?’ Baptism involves water and these sacred words: ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

‘Do I have to be baptised by a Catholic priest?’ No you don’t, this isn’t necessary. Your baptism is valid (most of the time) if you were baptised by another church, such as a Protestant Church.

‘Are any baptisms invalid?’ Yes, there are rare occasions that a baptism which has used water and the ‘name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ is invalid.

Such occasions are when this baptism was performed by a group that does not believe in the Church’s doctrine of the Trinity, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Oneness Pentecostals also have invalid baptism for the same reason, and often simply baptise ‘in the name of Jesus’ only. This is completely insufficient.

Baptisms performed without the use of water or with some other substance are invalid. Water MUST be used.

Baptisms performed without the person baptising saying ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ are also invalid. These precise words need to be said.

If you have serious doubt about the validity of your baptism, it is a good idea to contact a Catholic priest.

It is important to know whether or not you are baptised because baptism is the most important sacrament as far as salvation is concerned. It is the foundation of the Christian life. Without it, we cannot enter Christ and we cannot be saved. The Church is so convinced of this that she is very quick to baptise anyone in danger of death, including babies.

Jesus Christ taught: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you: unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (John 3:5).

Baptism is the water of rebirth (Titus 3:5), the washing with pure water (Hebrews 10:22) and our means of the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38 and 22:16). Baptism brings us into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Without baptism, we cannot hope to be saved, generally speaking.

‘Are there any exceptions?’ Of course there are! There are times when it is impossible or very difficult for someone to be baptised who wants to be baptised. Such a person is said to have a ‘baptism of desire’. Should they die in this state, their desire to be baptised is sufficient for salvation.

Another exception is if someone hasn’t been baptised, but believes in Jesus and suffers a martyr’s death (killed for the faith). This individual never had a chance to be baptised, but their martyrdom counts as their baptism: ‘a baptism of blood’. Also, their death for Christ wipes all their sins away because this is the ultimate act of love for Jesus. Presumably they go straight to heaven and become a saint. This is why all of the early martyrs are recognised saints, even though some weren’t ever baptised.

Another possible exception is if people don’t know about Jesus and his holy Catholic Church. Such people MAY eventually be saved, but we simply don’t know.

There may be some other exceptions, but nevertheless: Baptism is still VITAL!

Become a Catholic

A picture of the inside of a Catholic ChurchNow let’s assume you’ve been baptised. You’ve had all your former sins wiped away (which is what baptism does). But now you are trying to live the life of Christ and you discover that it’s hard. In fact, from time to time, or often, you are messing up and sinning. You don’t want to, but you sin.

What should you do? Well, you need a means of forgiveness after baptism.

This is where the Catholic Church comes in. The Catholic Church offers to forgive your sins through the ministry of her priests, in the Sacrament of Confession and through the Holy Eucharist.

In fact, there are many ways we can get our sins forgiven in the Catholic Church. Praying is a very powerful means of forgiveness, but so is giving to the poor and fasting. General works or acts of love also remit sins.

Confession is the usual or normative way for our sins to be forgiven after baptism, but it is not necessary to go to Confession for all of our sins. We only HAVE to go to Confession for our really serious sins, which sadly we do commit from time to time, or sometimes, habitually.

Confession helps us to conquer such serious sins by bringing them out in the open before God and before God’s representative (the Priest) in the context of entire secrecy and confidentiality. By the absolution/forgiveness/healing and advice the Priest offers, we can be greatly, greatly helped.

There is no replacement in this world for the Catholic Church for a baptised Christian. Every Christian desperately needs the Catholic Church and her saints to make it to heaven. Without the Church, we are like rudderless ships, sailing in the dark, hoping to make it to heaven through the wilderness of this world.

It is much better to get into the Boat which is heading for Paradise Island: the Church.

Don’t try and make it alone. I tried that for years and ended up in a hopeless mess and falling into awful sins and bad habits which I had no idea were sins at the time, because I didn’t have the Church to guide me.

‘Is it impossible to get to heaven if someone isn’t Catholic?’ No it’s not impossible. But it would be very difficult and probably rather unlikely. It would be like finding somewhere on one side of the world whilst starting from another side of the world without a map or a compass.

It is much harder to get to heaven without being Catholic. And if someone knows the Catholic Church is true, and still refuses to be part of her, it IS impossible to get to heaven.

When you are Catholic: Obey her

Having become Catholic, how do you get to heaven? By participating in the Church as much as you can. By making every effort to show love and do good works, all by, in and through Jesus. Jesus said: ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:6).

Primarily, we must try to keep the Ten Commandments and the Church’s commandments.

Do what the Church teaches and avoid what the Church disapproves of. This will guarantee that you stay on Heaven’s Path. It’s as simple as that, really.

To this end, learn what the Church teaches. Read her Catechisms. Any significant issue you have about anything in your life, go to your priest.

You simply persevere. You keep trying. You stay on this path. Should you fall off it, you pick yourself back up, get to Confession, and keep going.

Keep taking the Holy Eucharist, as often as possible. This is our necessary ‘Food for the Journey’ (Pope Francis). It ‘the Bread of Angels’ (Psalm 78:25) and the ‘Medicine of Immortality’ (St Ignatius). It is the ‘Source and Summit’ of Catholic life (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Pray daily, morning and evening at least, but the Rosary is especially to be recommended.

Above all, prize the Mass with the greatest honour and love. Try to attend Mass daily, but if you can’t, then go as often as you can to visit the Blessed Sacrament in your local Church.

I have a post on easy ways to become a saint. You should take a took.

And having done all you can to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), hopefully God in his mercy will receive you into everlasting dwellings. Perhaps you may have to spend some time in Purgatory (a place of purification in preparation for heaven).

We simply don’t know what the outcome will be for our efforts. But having done all we reasonably can, we look to God’s mercy ultimately to save us.

We only get one life. One. That’s it. When it’s over, it’s all over, and our fate is sealed forever. FOR EVER.

Make your life count before GOD. Make your life count to YOU by doing all you can to ensure that you find Heavenly Paradise.

God bless you, and may Mary pray for us all now and at death’s hour.

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