Salvation and good works come from grace. No one can do either efficacious good works or be saved without grace.
Natural gifts, which we all have to some degree or another, including some "virtues" which may come from a person's natural personality, do not save us. These natural gifts must be enhanced by grace, which is received in baptism and the other sacraments of the Church.
At this time in history, especially in Great Britain, a battle of the spirit is waging among Catholics who have forgotten the meaning of baptism. Baptism is essential for salvation. Those saved outside baptism are not the norm and, indeed, a rarity. Here is the CCC on this subject but in this post, I shall begin merely with the first items under a long section on baptism. Let me put my comments in blue after each small section.
1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."5
Note that through baptism we are freed from sin, become sons and daughters of God, members of the Church and given the command to follow Christ's mission for the Church.
No one can be called a son or daughter of God without baptism, as they are not so. They are creatures, but not adopted into the family of God.
I. WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED?
1214 This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or "immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as "a new creature."6
One dies to sin and becomes someone new. One is not the same before baptism and after baptism. Each person is really a new being. This new person lives now in God and has been given not only the grace of salvation, but the virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are lacking in the person not baptized. These supernatural gifts are not natural.
1215 This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the kingdom of God."7
One must be baptized to not only come into the Church, but to go into heaven. The enlightenment is not only the training one hopefully enjoys before baptism, but a renewal of the mind, to think like Christ, to put on the Mind of Christ.
I hope to write more on this subject because many Catholics in Great Britain do not understand the ontological difference between an unbaptized and a baptized person. The baptized person, if that person does not commit mortal sin, lives and walks in light. The unbaptized person, as Trent tells us, is "a slave of satan", unable to see the light and live in the life of the virtues.
Baptism cannot be hindered by parents or those in authority. Baptism is the right of every baby born into Catholic families. This heritage of passing the Faith down to the next generation, passing new life down into the lives of our children, is the greatest gift one can bestow on one's offspring.
Our natural gifts become efficacious in the life of the Holy Spirit. To deny the difference between those who now are sons and daughters of God and those who are not is a willing blindness.
1216 "This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding . . . ."8 Having received in Baptism the Word, "the true light that enlightens every man," the person baptized has been "enlightened," he becomes a "son of light," indeed, he becomes "light" himself:9
- Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship.10