Catholic Truth Society Postal Course #9: How We Are Saved, by Father Herbert C Fincham

As a result of original sin our human nature is no longer endowed with sanctifying grace by inheritance from the origin of our race, and before we can benefit from the merits gained by Christ on the Cross we must be reunited to God, or at-oned with God, as the word atonement really means. For this we need the gift of Faith to believe in Christ, for. He says, “No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44) We must believe in Christ and be baptized.

Christ’s Conditions For Salvation

By His death on the Cross our Saviour gained all the merits and satisfactions necessary to redeem the whole world, and by the sacrifice of the Holy Mass He pours out these treasures upon mankind. There are, however, certain conditions laid down by Him which we must fulfil before we can become sharers in these spiritual treasures. We must first be reunited to God by that new Life of the soul and which we call sanctifying grace. Our Lord ordains that “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This rebirth in water and the Holy Ghost is by Baptism. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Hence Christ’s final command to the apostles was: “Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19)


Baptism is an essential condition laid down by Christ for salvation. By it we are made Christians, children of God and members of Christ’s Church. The word Baptism means washing and by this sacrament we are washed from original sin and, if we have been guilty of any personal sins, these also are cleansed. It is of such great importance that everyone may have the opportunity to be baptized that authority to administer it in case of necessity is given to all people. Hence all should learn how to baptize. The person who administers the sacrament must make the water flow over the head of the recipient while saying “I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

Baptism Of Desire

By Baptism we take our place with Christ and reject the devil. We promise to love and obey God by doing all things that God commands, in so far as we know and understand them. It is possible that some souls may be earnestly striving to do this, without ever having been baptized or even knowing of the grave obligation to be baptized. Such souls are said to be in good faith and in so far as they desire to do God’s will in all things, they have an implicit desire to be baptized. The desire to be baptized, whether * The numbers in brackets refer to the Catechism of Christian Doctrine. explicit or implicit, will be accepted by God as sufficient for salvation where a person is unable to receive the sacrament, and is either free from grave sin, or has perfect sorrow arising from the love of God for his sins. A more perfect form of Baptism desire was possessed by martyrs who died before they could be baptized, which is called Baptism of blood.

Infants Must Be Baptized

As Baptism bestows these great graces and blessings by the power of God, and not by any power of ours, it only requires on our part the removal of obstacles to that grace. Infants cannot place such obstacles in the way of grace and so may be baptized immediately after birth. In fact this is the usual custom and it is a grave obligation to see that babies are baptized as soon as possible after birth, for, while infants cannot impede the reception of grace, they cannot receive it without Baptism, and without grace they can never enter , heaven. This does not mean that unbaptized infants or adults must all be condemned to hell; they will find a certain natural state of happiness in Limbo. It was to the Limbo of the Just that Our Lord descended after His death until His resurrection, for before His Ascension the gates of heaven were closed to the human race.

No Injustice To Unbaptized Infants

Our nature as created by God has no right to heaven, which is a gift added by His infinite bounty. Hence there can be no question of any injustice on God’s part when He does not grant this gift of heaven to unbaptized infants. The mystery is not so much that these cannot go to heaven, but rather that baptized babies are able to do so without earning it by a free act of choosing God during their earthly lives. This can only be looked upon as an exception to God’s ordinance ‘in creating us free, granted, perhaps, to demonstrate the wonderful sacramental power of Baptism. God’s grace can marvellously supply that act of love in the infant’s soul that would seem by nature to depend entirely upon the use of reason and free-will.

Adults Must Believe And Repent

The obstacles that adults can place in the way of grace are: the deliberate refusal to believe in Christ and refusal to repent of grave sin. Hence Our Lord says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Believing in Christ means that we accept Him as our Lord and Master, obeying His commands and accepting His teaching, which involves the obligation of embracing His religion and joining His Church. Grave sin turns our will away from God, by refusing to love Him or be His friend. Clearly, until we turn our will back to Him, God cannot call us His friends or pour down on us the supernatural life which makes us His children, sharers in His Divine Nature and temples of the Holy Ghost. It is by repentance or contrition that we turn our wills back to God, and without it no grave sin can be forgiven.


When children reach the age of reason, usually about seven years of age, sin becomes possible, and greater strength and help from God is necessary. To supply this we have another sacrament called Confirmation, which means strengthening. Adult converts must also be confirmed as soon as the opportunity occurs, for this sacrament is very important if we are to survive all the temptations that afflict our souls.

At the Last Supper Our Lord promised His apostles: “I will ask the Father and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever. The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him: but you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you . . . But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things and bring to your mind all things whatsoever I shall have said to you …” (John 14:16,17,26). This promised Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity and He came down upon the apostles, as was promised by Jesus on Whit Sunday, ten days after the Ascension, with great power and majesty. (Acts 2) As we have already seen, the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Love proceeding from the Father and the Son, having one and the same Divine Nature with them.

The Holy Ghost Gave Power To The Apostles

The apostles had been timorous men, who fled and hid themselves when Our Lord was persecuted, but the Holy Ghost filled them with such courage and strength that they went forth fearlessly to preach the Gospel. They were simple, unlearned men, lacking all the usual qualifications of preachers and missioners, but the Spirit of Truth, according to the promise of Christ, taught them all truth and gave them all that they required to preach and convince many thousands of men to follow Christ.

The Holy Ghost Remains With Christ’s Church

Christ promised that the Holy Ghost would remain with them for ever. This could not have meant the apostles personally, for they all died within a comparatively few years. The promise was made to the Church, of which they were the first bishops, and the Church is still guided by the Holy Ghost. But the Spirit of God did not descend only on the apostles, for we read that there were one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:15) gathered together in the Upper Room awaiting His coming. All these received His strength and light according to their needs, and we read in other places how the apostles laid their hands on their converts and they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6). In both these passages it is clear that this receiving of the Holy Ghost is not the same as Baptism, for they were already baptized. However, this second sacrament could only be given by the apostles, who were the first priests of the Church, as these converts had already been baptized in Samaria by others than apostles (cf. 8:15,16): “For He (the Holy Ghost) was not as yet come upon any of them: but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost.”

The Rite Of Confirmation

From this it is evident that Our Lord has left us another sacrament, which we call Confirmation, by which we receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ. It can be administered by a priest but usually only by a bishop. The rite now used is the laying on of the Minister’s hands and anointing with chrism on the forehead in the form of a cross, saying: “I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen”.

Patron Saints And God-Parents

In both Baptism and Confirmation it is usual to give to the recipients Christian names. These names, or at least one of them in Baptism, should be those of some saint or saints, who may become our special patrons. The modern custom of choosing only names of pagan gods and goddesses, or so-called family names, is to be deprecated. For Confirmation the recipient is old enough to choose the name and should give careful consideration to the saints whose patronage is desired.

Likewise in both these sacraments the recipients must have God-parents. For Baptism not more than two, a God-father and a God-mother, are allowed, though sometimes other, honorary sponsors, are also tolerated, but they do not take part in the ceremony or contract any spiritual relationship with the baptized person. As the God-parents stand as proxy for the recipient of the sacrament in matters of religion and must answer truthfully for the child that he or she believes in the Floly Catholic religion, it should be obvious that they must be Catholics. Moreover, they have grave obligations in case of the parents’ death, inability or faUure, to see to the Catholic upbringing of their God-children; or, in the case of converts, of helping the convert in matters of religion. Clearly the Church could not allow any save her own children to undertake these duties.

Conditional Baptism

As there is often serious reason to doubt the validity of Baptisms conferred by non-Catholics (although absolutely speaking anyone with right intention can baptize). Baptism is repeated for converts conditionally (or absolutely if they are certainly unbaptized), unless their former baptism can be proved valid, in which case not even conditional baptism may be given.

The Characters Of Baptism, Confirmation And Holy Order

These two sacraments. Baptism and Confirmation, together with Holy Order, of which something has been said in the sixth leaflet, can be received only once in a lifetime because they make a permanent impression on the soul called a Character. By Baptism the title “Christian” is impressed like a seal upon the soul; by Confirmation, “Soldier of Christ”; and by Holy Order, “Priest of Christ”. These marks can never be lost even though a soul may be damned in hell for all eternity; it remains “Christian” or “Soldier of Christ” or “Priest of Christ” if once it has been so sealed.

MLA Citation

  • Father Herbert C Fincham. “How We Are Saved”. The Catholic Postal Course, 1951. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 April 2016. Web. 24 October 2016. <>