Practicing the Faith, growing in holiness and drawing closer to Our Lord are not magical processes. There's no special incantation that will transform you into a devout disciple. Becoming a saint involves hard work that a disciple must perform daily.
As St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, "I drive my body and I train it for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified."
Although growing in holiness can be difficult, the good news is that Our Lord is with us all the way when we avail ourselves of His sacramental presence. Speaking from experience, there is no problem that an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament cannot alleviate. Before you are tempted to throw up your hands in despair, take yourself to church and just sit with Our Lord.
During my many years as pastor, there was never a day when some parishioner wasn't at his wits' end. These parishioners, because they didn't know what else to do, would invariably come knocking on the rectory door.
As a young priest, I learned from my first parish's retired pastor, Fr. Joseph Nowak, how to deal with these day-to-day problems. When one of these unscheduled visitors came knocking, Fr. Joe would say, "I am unavailable at the moment, but in an hour I can make myself free. Why don't you take this Rosary?"
He would then place a Rosary into the person's hands and tell them to "sit in church with Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother to get a jump on solving this crisis."
One day, Fr. Joe made a point of explaining this to me, saying:
Paul, in most of these emergencies, the main problem is a direct result of separation from God, the Church and the sacraments. In almost all of these personal crises, all it takes is an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament to fix the problem. And, if the individual needs to go to confession afterward, they're all ready when they come back to me. God is the fixer of souls — just you remember that.
When I was first ordained, I put more weight on my psychological credentials than I should have. Father Joe would teasingly say to me, "You young priests with your psychology degrees — you think you can fix souls! What rubbish."
Thanks to Fr. Joe, I learned that God is the prime mover and shaker in the hearts of men. Although a priest's credentials and experience are valuable, calling others to be prayerful is more important.
When it comes to practicing the Faith and developing one's spiritual life, many individuals delude themselves with what they think are quick fixes and shortcuts. But we all know that to get a paycheck, a man has to slog off to a job, day after day, rain or shine. It's fundamentally the same thing in spiritual life. If you expect to grow in holiness and eventually get into Heaven, you have to put in the hours on your knees.
Another delusion of modern man is the concept that Heaven is "cheap." Many think that merely having a modicum of faith and occasionally giving a nod to the Creator allows one to be with Him for eternity. Both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition attest that Heaven is far from cheap or simple to gain.
I once faced off with a Baptist man on the steps of my parish over this very issue. As parishioners were coming into the church, the man kept trying to get them to repeat what he professed to be the magic phrase for redemption, saying, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior."
I sent him packing by completing his statement in this way:
I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I believe that He is present in the Eucharist, confected in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I believe what Our Lord said in John's Gospel — unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you.
My words hit the young man hard, and he hightailed it off the church steps. I shouted at him as he ran away, saying, "Coward! What kind of man badgers old women as they try to make their way into church — and can't even defend his position?"
Prepare yourself to put in the hard work of living out your Faith. One's redemption is not a sure thing until after he passes through the pearly gates. Put aside all thoughts that something simple will get you into Heaven or that you'll just wait until your proverbial ninth hour.
There are deathbed conversions, but you shouldn't bank on them. We never know when death will come for us. Don't put off the work of today, because the opportunity God gives you to draw closer to Him may not come tomorrow.