Faith and Works

If you grew up in the South in the 1950s and 1960s and were Catholic, you were someone who needed to be saved, at least in the estimation of your Reformed, Protestant and Evangelical brothers and sisters. Anytime was the right time to ask “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” – at the post office, the gas station, or the local Piggly-Wiggly (and “yes” it is a real store and not a fictional name created for the movies).

Any extended discussion would eventually roll into the great debate over “faith” vs. “works” as the avenue of salvation. St. Paul and his Letter to the Romans would be hauled out to show that we are saved by faith and not works of the law. As a counterpoint, we Catholics would hoist up today’s first reading from the Letter of James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14) – and note this later letter was a “corrective” to a misunderstanding of the early Christian communities that may have rallied around the banner of “Faith Alone!” – a battle cry of Reformers some 1,500 years later.

What’s the answer? Are we saved by faith? Are we saved by works? Neither. We are saved by Grace which gives birth to faith and to works. To what good end has Grace been put to use if it gives no evidence in the world of a faith displayed and professed? To what good end is that faith that is unaccompanied by good works? To what good end are those works of charity that are not coupled to the faith.

It was never a question of either-or. By the grace of God, it has always been an answer of both-and.


For the record: today there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores serving communities in 17 states. All Piggly Wiggly stores are independently owned and operated, and are located primarily throughout the Southeast but as far north as Wisconsin.

1 thought on “Faith and Works

  1. I grew up in the Carolinas in the 50s and 60s. The Catholic population was 1/2 of 1 percent of the population. I can honestly say that there were only 2occasions when Protestants were obnoxious to my face. One was my history teacher ( little smart a—) when we studied the reformation and he stood me up and argued re’ what abominations Existed in our church, according to him. The other time was when the wife of the US Secretary of Labor under Kennedy, said nasty things about Catholics in a small Social situation and no one present came to our defense, nor ever mentioned it. I could only assume that my friends must agree.

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