You may be familiar with the phrase extra Ecclesiam nulla salus which means: “outside the Church there is no salvation”. This does not mean that anyone who is not a member of the Catholic Church will not be saved or that the Church is absolutely necessary for salvation. (Mind you i said “absolutely”. The Church IS NECESSARY for salvation, but God can bring the inculpably ignorant to salvation too)
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. — CCC 847
All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. — Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes.
The Church is necessary:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (CCC 846)
No place for guess-work
You know there are no do-overs when it comes to salvation. One cannot wake up in hell and yell “do over, do over”. Once one falls into that pit, that is the end. Therefore there’s need for serious care in working towards heaven. The discussion here is not heavily on the phrase discussed above or on the virtues needed for heaven. We all know the whole gist: love God above all, stay away from sin. DO GOOD by loving and caring for the things and people God loves. This means care for everyone with love and for the environment too.
Sacraments: Do you know how difficult it must be to have the mercy of God with certainty without the Sacrament? Yes it is true, God forgives everyone who calls on him with a sincere heart. However, you cannot compare this with the assurance in your heart when you hear the words of absolution: “Ego te absolvo”, “I absolve thee”. You must have the conditions necessary for receiving this sacrament before it is valid though. Read about that here. That is why i say it must be really difficult to be a protestant. Everything is dependent on me, there is little or no help of grace flowing from the seven Sacraments of the Church.
The Virgin Mary
Aha, finally the living ‘shortcut’. I know many might dispute this, and this is not discussed as an official position of the Church but as personal opinion. This has also been expressed by several Saints.
“Have you strayed from the path leading to heaven? Then call on Mary, for her name means “Star of the Sea, the North Star which guides the ships of our souls during the voyage of this life,” and she will guide you to the harbor of eternal salvation.” ― St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret Of The Rosary
He who is devout to the Blessed Mother will certainly never be lost. – St. Ignatius of Antioch
May the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always smile on your spirit, obtaining for it, from her Most Holy Son, every heavenly blessing. – St. Padre Pio
If the hurricanes of temptation rise against you, or you are running upon the rocks of trouble, look to the star-call on Mary! – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary. – St. Thomas Aquinas
Only after the last judgement will Mary get any rest; from now until then, she is much too busy with her children. – St. John Vianney
Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother. – St. Padre Pio
I would have included miracles associated with the praying of the Rosary, but i will mention my experience in passing. I have never had a difficult health situation where i called Mary and she did nothing. This started happening to me since i was a little boy. It might be only in my head, that’s definitely a possibility, but anytime i am in pain, and call Mary, something different almost always happens.
Anyone who says the Rosary daily is assured of Mary’s friendship. And anyone who uses the Brown Scapular too is closer to the heart of Mary than anything. These are her dual weapons against all the powers of hell.
Truly the Sacraments are the surest means of salvation. But we also have to turn to Mary because, as in Canaan, she gets our backs whenever we run out of wine. Out of the wine of strength, of grace, of virtue, of peace, of love, and of hope. We can always depend on Mary to obtain the best of graces from Jesus her son. This is the surest and easiest path to heaven. Holding onto Jesus, his Church and his Mother. Let others know !
“[The] Blessed Mother… is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus”
– St Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.