15 June 2007

Growing a Sacred Heart

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: Ez 34.11-16; Rom 5.5-11; Luke 15.3-7
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
DECAT Mass (St. Rita)

[NB. This homily was written for and preached to about 250 fifth graders who are finishing up their time in the diocese's DECAT program (a summer program for academically gifted children attending Catholic schools). The sound is weird b/c I was moving around a lot. Also, this is the first time I have ever preached w/o reading my homily. . .]


Having grown up Baptist in the deep south, it took me a long time to get used to this Catholic habit of venerating holy body parts: the arm of Aloysius, the head of Agnes, the chipped up bones of Martin, Dominic, Ignatius. Pieces of clothing or keepsakes like glasses or bookmarks seemed perfectly fine. But taking a saint’s pinkie bone and locking it in a gold trimmed, vacuumed sealed glass case for safe travel around the world…well, that’s just creepy. Spending time in Rome didn’t help me being any less creeped out either. Made it worse in fact! There’s a church there made of nothing but human skulls and thigh bones. It seems like every church has a Holy Body Part in a box and some have the whole body! Now, here we are today honoring the sacred heart of Jesus. What exactly are we honoring? And why?

Let’s answer these questions with this one: what is the link between Jesus’ sacred heart and this morning’s biblical image of Jesus as a good shepherd? To start an answer to this question and the two previous questions, we need to know what the heart is and does in our Catholic spirituality. Historically, the heart for our faith is a symbol of the whole person, the person made whole by God, brought to the fullness of healing, and set right in holiness. All of the various images of the heart bear this out: the pierced heart of Mary, showing us her grief; the crowned heart of Jesus, showing us his triumph over death in heaven, and so on. The heart is also a mystical image of our covenant with God. Think of your heart as a tabernacle, a holy vault where you keep your promises to God and He keeps His to you. Your heart then is that place in your soul where you are closest to God, most intimate with the Holy Spirit; your heart is the center of our very being, the source of your life.

Now, I have to tell you what your heart isn’t, or better yet how the word “heart” gets used in our popular media and why that use doesn’t apply to us here. How many of you have heard Disney characters tell the story’s hero: “Just follow your heart! Feel your way along!” I heard Yoda say this to Obi Wan Kenobi just yesterday afternoon. I groaned out loud and switched the channel back to Mythbusters. At least they were blowing up raw chickens with nitro. The idea that the “heart” rules our deliberations, governs our passions, and serves as an infallible guide to our decision-making isn’t all that crazy if (IF!) we remember that God governs the heart. But Hollywood generally means that we should just do what we want to do and use the excuse “I was just following my heart” to justify whatever mess we cause in acting irrationally.

OK. Back to Jesus’ sacred heart and the Good Shepherd. Here’s what Christ wants for you and from you. What he wants for you is a life of holiness lived in service to others. There is no holiness for the Christian without service to others. Let me say that again: if you do not serve others—help other people when they need your help—you cannot grow in holiness. God loves you and His love for you is perfected (made complete, whole) in you when you use your talents and gifts for the benefit of others. Your job is to become Christ for other people—doing what he did, teaching what he taught, and preaching what he preached. You can do this with your brains, your hands, your back, with music, words, paints, numbers, motherly talents, fatherly talents, with technology, without it, in an office or a church, with song, dance, a poem or a novel, whatever gift God has given you to improve on: use it, use all of them, for others. That’s what Jesus wants for you.

What does he want from you? Christ is the Good Shepherd, his heart is holy, his relationship with His Father is perfect. Everything that Christ is as a person is wholly perfect in God the Father and the Holy Spirit. There is nothing we can give Christ or do for Christ that will add to his perfection. All we can do is multiple his love in the Church. So what he wants from us is to be good shepherds ourselves. To be men and women with strong hearts, clear vision, peaceful souls, and welcoming arms. Sometimes the shepherd has to redirect the flock from danger. Sometimes a sheep wanders away and must be brought back. Sometimes the wolves chase the flock and the shepherd has to defend his sheep. Each of us is responsible for the flock in his or her own way. Make sure your heart, that place in your soul where you keep the covenant, is ready for the challenge, ready to break free and get to work for God’s greater glory!

Paul writes to the Romans: “The love of God has been poured out into your hearts through the Holy Spirit…God [has proven] his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Notice here: Christ did not wait for us to stop sinning before he died for us. He died so that we might be freed from sin. The Good Shepherd came running after us. We don’t have to find him. He has already found us. Now, we walk around with the tabernacle of God’s love, with hearts brightened by the Spirit’s fire.

Do what you must to perfect your gifts and talents. And a huge part of that perfection will be using your gifts and talents for the benefit of others. Some would say to you that you are too young to be thinking about giving your life to a gift or a talent or a service. I say: now is precisely the time to take on a passion, to pick up a call to do something heroic, to do something holy and to be a saint. When it comes to God perfecting His love in you, why would anyone choose to wait until later?

The Good Shepherd's Sacred Heart

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: Ez 34.11-16; Rom 5.5-11; Luke 15.3-7
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club Mass (Church of the Incarnation)

What does it mean to “boast of God”? Paul tells the Romans that b/c they are reconciled to the Father in Christ Jesus that they may boast of God. Are we to brag about His power? His mercy? Are we to talk him up like a presidential candidate? Or are we lifting Him up so that we might be lifted up as well? Rising in glory with Him? These all seem a little self-serving. A little too much like pride slopping over the edges of vanity and spilling out into self-promotion. Such publicity—especially for personal enlargement—does little to strenghten the source of legit boasting: a Christ-shaped heart pounding out the loving blood of service and sacrifice. Our Good Shepherd rescues us from the rugged gullies and the dark forests and brings us back to level ground and light. It is precisely his love for us that sends him out in search of just me or just you. With great joy he finds us lost and celebrates our return. That joy, that elation at the return of just one lost soul is the burst of holy fire, the BANG! of the Spirit that shakes our own hearts, lets us feel his pleasure at giving his Father one more broken spirit. So full are we then with the light and warmth and glow and crackle and silk smooth love of Christ’s sacrifice that our own hearts are set apart, consecrated for holy duties, becoming that place in us out of which we serve and serve and serve. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep because his sheep pump his blood; his sheep hold his sacred heart in their bodies and feel the pounding of all the love he can pour in. He died for us while we were still sinners. Still sinners. He died for us confident that our own hearts—tabernacles made to hold his presence—would come alive with his blood. The Psalmist says this morning, “Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” Can you say that? Listening to the thump of the shepherd in your heart, can you say that goodness and kindess will follow you…everyday of your life? If not, do not boast of God. Do not claim His presence or patronage. If your heart will burst with goodness, then boast! Tell it all to the world! Boast of His words, deeds, and what He has done for you. Boast your witness until the conflagration of all sacred hearts.

14 June 2007

A surpassing Righteousness

10th Week OT(R): 2 Cor 3.15-4.1, 3-6 and Matthew 5.20-26
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory


Jesus teaches us that “unless [our] righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, [we] will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” Then Paul tell us that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We are able to surpass the righteousness of those who merely comply with the Law b/c we are freed by the Spirit of the Lord to live our lives within the Law as Christ’s coming fulfilled it, that is, in his Spirit we recognize the will of the Father; by grace we are able to cooperate with His will, growing in holiness; and therefore, the Law becomes a sign for us, a structure through which we see the fullness of the truth. In Christ Jesus, the Law becomes an icon through which we meet the glory of God. And here the veil of mere compliance, of just “following the rules” is removed and the ends of the Law rise to the surface: we are to be made righteous, made perfect, made God. Paul goes on to tell us, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…”

Jesus tells us that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. What is “righteousness”? It is the state of being in right relationship with God, being as holy as is humanly possible in cooperation with God’s grace. The Old Covenant is clear about this: to be righteous is to comply with the Law (dietary, temple, etc.). If strict compliance with the Law were our only measure of what counts as “righteous,” well, we’re in trouble. Those guys had the Law down pat. Jesus knew this. But Jesus isn’t talking about mere compliance with the Law. He came to fulfill the Law, that is, he came to complete the Law, to perfect it for us now so that we might surpass the righteousness of the most observant scribe or Pharisee. By showing us the ends of the Law, the eternal purposes of the Law, he shows us a way to righteousness through and beyond the Law. . .but never around it!

Now, all that sounds good. But thank God for Jesus and his good example! Look at it again. You shall not kill. A good prohibition. But is the only purpose of this law to make killing a crime? In one sense, yes. Killing is a crime. But why is killing a crime? Just b/c God says so? Jesus fully teases out the implications of this law: it is self-righteous anger that leads to killing; it is a certain disposition of the spirit that moves you to murder, moves you to treat another person as if he or she is worthy of death for making your angry. Certainly, the act of killing kills charity in your heart! But Jesus’ point seems to be: wait! the act of murder starts long before the knife slides in or the gun goes off. Therefore, the end of the law against killing is to habituate us to respect the dignity of the person as a creature of God—His image and likeness. Though murder may be the most violent act we can commit against human dignity, it is far from the only violence we are capable of. And we delude ourselves and one another when we assume that by merely refraining from killing, we are respecting the dignity of the person.

Jesus concludes his discourse on the purposes of the Law by urging us to “get right” with one another before we sacrifice at the altar. We give ourselves here. We are the gift. Given life by God through Christ, we give our lives back to Him in service. The goats and lambs for the temple altar were unblemished. And so the offerings we bring—our hearts and minds—must be unblemished as well. No self-righteousness, no pride, no envy or deceit.

If you will be transformed into the perfect image of Christ, you will accept the freedom that the ends of the Law offers. There you will find the Spirit of the Lord, waiting with mercy and love.

13 June 2007

Of Poverty & Wolves

St. Anthony of Padua: Isa 61.1-3 and Luke 10.1-9
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation


Jesus sends out ahead of him seventy-two disciples. He gives them instructions on how to greet peaceable people once in the town. And how to eat and drink what is given. And not to be jumping from house to house. And how to proclaim the Good News: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Oddly, he sends them out without money, without a sack, and without shoes. And he tells them not to acquire any of these along the way. I suppose if Jesus were with us as a teacher now, he would send out his seventy-two without credit cards, luggage, and cell phones. What point is he making by imposing such a seemingly burdensome restriction on his preachers? Notice where this restriction comes in the reading; it comes just after this ominous line: “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among the wolves.” Can we say that the required poverty of possessions is a weapon against the ravening wolves? I think so. How so?

To the degree that we are attached to this world, the degree to which we find our ultimate worth, our final end in the come and go of material creation, to that degree are we beholding to the wolves. When we look at all those things that collect around us where we live and work, all those ideas and passions that sink us firmly in the ground of the temporary, when we look closely and deeply at our weights and anchors, we look squarely into the eyes of the wolf. Lean, hungry, ruthless, and violent. To this wolf and its hunger your soul is a nibbling snack. Gobbled up like a bite of bloody rabbit in the snow. What holds you down, weighs against your escape from the wolf is the delusion that what you see and hear and taste and feel all around you is your final end, your goal. It isn’t. It can’t be. All of this too will pass away. Why invest your soul in impermanent order, in temporary things?

Jesus knows well the psychology of the wolf. The wolf is always hungry. Always hunting. Always brutal in taking down its prey. The wolves of Jesus’ day lied about him in court; paid off witnesses to testify against him; intentionally misstated his teachings to trap him in heresy; and, eventually, one of his friends betrayed him for silver. Jesus knows well how the wolf works. He also knows the temptations of the world. The seduction of power and wealth; the obsessive heart that collects things rather than love; the compulsive mind that mulls over reason and ignores truth. And the quickest, deadliest enemy of all: the temptation to despair in the face of repeated spiritual failures.

Knowing the wolf, the possible seductions, obsessions, and temptations, Jesus requires his preachers to go out among the wolves naked of ambition, freed from possessions, completely shorn of the desire to collect and accumulate. And he makes it possible for them to succeed by pointing out that success in preaching is the business of the preacher, the hearer, and the Spirit moving between them. The preacher must preach, the hearer must listen, and the Spirit will move hearts and minds to Christ’s peace.

If it is not money or shoes or books or gadgets that anchor you, what is it? What will you have to drag behind you, running in the snow, when the wolves catch your scent? Or will you opt to live the life of an Occasional Wolf, a lamb in wolves’ fur? I’m no shaman, but I hear that pretending to be an animal too well and too long will eventually change you into that animal. Will you be a wolf then?

To take this animal metaphor from the sublime to the ridiculous: we are required to be lambs among the wolves, as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents! So get out there with all the gentleness and wisdom you can muster and preach the gospel to everyone who will listen. And watch the wolves—they get hungry for mutton when they hear the truth spoken.

12 June 2007

Tasteless & Dark, we are useless

10th Week OT (Tues): 2 Cor 1.18-22 and Matthew 5.13-46
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Where is your flavor? Where is your light? Have you gone stale? Dim? Tasteless and dark? Or do you season well everything you do with Christ’s love, season well everyone you meet? Do you shine out before others the wonders our Lord has done for you? Does your presence push shadows into the light? If not, why not? Tasteless and dark, you are useless to the Lord. To be stale and dim in the faith before the world is an anti-witness, a testimony at cross-purposes with the gospel. Instead of proclaiming in word and deed the freedom of God’s mercy, the boundless possibilities of our Father’s love, instead, being tasteless and dark, we confirm the prejudices of this world’s blackest hearts and most ruthless minds: God is a fairytale best left to children’s books. We know this is a lie. But do we live lives—out there!—in a way that provides ample, positive evidence that God is not a fairytale or a brutal projection of our desire to control chaos or a figment of a collective subconscious wish for an eternal Parent?

In other words, do you live out there in the same way you worship in here? Out there, do you love Christ openly? Freely? Do you proclaim with the words of your mouth and the work of your hands the glory of God? Do you show others The Way to eternal life in Christ? Is it plain to everyone around you that for you Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? Do you exude the peace of Christ, the obedient YES of Mary, the remarkable surrender to divine providence of Christ’s final minutes on the cross? Do you live and move and have your being in God, living day to day trusting in His promises, believing His faithful YES’s and knowing that, though you and I are not perfect yet, we are, in Christ Jesus, being perfected for a life that glorifies God forever?

What is your light and what is your lampstand? My questions to you here should not be heard as a kind of Christian fundamentalism. I am not pushing a “Jesus alone is enough” spirituality. Our Catholic faith is never about Me and God. It is always Us and God. And in that “us” each of us exercises a nature unique to the person, a set of gifts and talents combined in a way that will, once used for the benefit of others, cooperate with God’s will for each of us and perfect His love in each of us. Your light is your set of gifts, your bag of talents given to you to glorify God. Your lampstand is how you choose to use those gifts for our good. And as a member of the Body, any perfection in God’s love for you is a grace for me and everyone else in the Body. When I grow in holiness, so do you. When you are healed, I am healthier. Let’s be thorough here: when any member of the Body is diseased, the whole Body is sick. If salvation is not about Me and Jesus, then neither is sin just about Me and Jesus. Look not, Lord, on our sins but on the faith of your Church.

Your light must shine before others! Not for your benefit alone but for all of us out here who fail so regularly, who fall so frequently, who need the whole Body for strength to go on. Tasteless and dark, we are useless to one another. This doesn’t mean moral or spiritual perfection right now. It does mean that we have promised at baptism to show Christ to anyone who looks our way; to show him as faithfully, as fully as our current progress in holiness will allow. And it means that do so with a spirit of work, working to understand His Self-revelation; working to clarify and know more deeply His wisdom; working, always working with the gifts of the Spirit—intellect and will—to purify ourselves of narcissism and disobedience so that we may come to be servants worthy of serving Him and one another.

Where is your flavor? Where is your light? You must shine before others, so that we may all see Christ more clearly.

11 June 2007

"With more sisters wearing the habit. . ."

Check out this great video of the Nashville Dominican Sisters. Very powerful stuff!

And this Today Show piece on the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

God is blessing these faithful congregations with energetic young women and He is blessing the rest of us with them! Amen.

Of Justification and Homies

The University of Dallas' very own Dr. Chris Malloy is interviewed over at the Ignatius Press blog. Dr. Malloy fields questions on what I think is probably the most difficult theological specialty in the discipline: the problems of justification.

Check it out!

Also, I learned today that this blog has a fan base among Homeschooling Mothers! Who knew? So, here's a shout out to all my Homies (hehehehehe) in the homeschooling world. . .

So, you wanna be a Christian...

Feast of St. Barnabas: 2 Cor 1.1-7 and Matthew 5.1-12
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory


Every time the Beatitudes roll around in the lectionary cycle, I am tempted to preach a homily called the “Uglititudes.” You can imagine, I think, what this homily might look like. There would a litany of ugly vices opposed to all those beautiful virtues; some wordplay that makes it sound like we should be ugly rather than beautiful; for a little humor there would be one or two unfair swipes at self-serving interpretations of Jesus’ litany—pacifism, moral perfectionism; and the whole thing would conclude with a surprising, twisty reading of the word “beatitude” and a bouncy admonition to be a prophet or to rejoice more or maybe to volunteer at a shelter or something like that. No one wants to be predictable but ruts will groove the hardest clay when traveled on long enough. What do you imagine the disciples thought of the whole Beatitude homily? Predictable? Standard stuff? Safe, middle-class prattle? I’m willing to bet that they were thinking: “You have got to be kidding with this!”

Let’s get a definition. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his homilies on the Beatitudes, teaches us that, “Beatitude…is a possession of all things held to be good, from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.” He goes on to write that “beatitude” is opposed to ‘misery,” which he defines as “being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.” Then he says, “Now the one thing truly blessed is Divinity Itself. Whatever else we may suppose [the Divine Self] to be, this pure life, the ineffable and incomprehensible good, is beatitude.” So, for me to say that I am in a state of beatitude is to say that I possesses all the good things that I want; that I am not afflicted with any painful sufferings; and that I participate fully in the Divine Life. Who here is blessed in precisely this way?

And now this is why the disciples might be thinking to themselves, “You have got to be kidding!” As a standard of blessedness, the Beatitudes are tough. To be poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, clean of heart, merciful, to be peacemakers and ready to die as martyrs—these are our standards of holiness, our measures for blessedness. You have go to be kidding me! Nope. No kidding. There’s nothing predictable here. Nothing worn or rutted. Jesus is plainly, simply drawing out the spiritual implications of choosing to walk his Way; he is unpacking for us all the baggage that comes with sincerely calling him “Lord,” all of the consequences of accepting his death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb as our own death and resurrection. In other words, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ answer to this question: “Lord, what will happen to me if I choose to follow you?” Blessed are you…

For they will be comforted. For they will be satisfied. For they will be shown mercy. Future tense. How about now? I asked earlier who here is blessed in precisely the way Gregory of Nyssa defines beatitude. A better question: who here expects to be blessed in beatitude? An even better question: who here, looking to a future in Perfect Beatitude, is experiencing imperfect Beatitude now, small day to day blessings right now?

The Sermon on the Mount is best read like a map. It shows us our starting point, our destination, and all the ways to get to where we are going. But reading a map ain’t the same as taking a trip. Blessed are they (then) who travel the Way. For they will be brought to Beauty Himself. This is not a prediction but a promise. And there is nothing safe about it.

10 June 2007

Deep fired sacramentum caritatis with pork gravy

Corpus Christi: Gen 14.18-20; 1 Cor 11.23-26; Luke 9.11-17
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas


These are a few of my favorite things: Buttermilk dripped and deep-fried chicken. Butter beans with bacon and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Greens with fatback and vinegar. Squash casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole with pecans and brown sugar crust. Deviled eggs. Warm biscuits with honey butter. Homemade, cast-iron skillet cornbread with real butter. Fresh yeast rolls. Pecan pie. Chocolate pie. Mississippi Mud Cake. Bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Can you tell I’m a true blood Southerner?!* Each of these and all of them together do more than just expand my waistline and threaten the structural integrity of my belt—each and all of them together make up for me a palette of memories, a buffet (if you will!) of powerful reminders of who I am, where I came from, who I love, who loves me, and where I am going. Second perhaps only to sex, eating is one of the most intimate things we do. Think about it for just a second: when you eat, you take into your body stuff from the world—meat, vegetables, water, tea—you put this stuff in your mouth, you chew, you taste and feel, you smell and swallow, and all of it, every bite, becomes your body. This is extraordinarily intimate! You are made up of, built out of what you eat.

What does it mean then for you, for us to eat the Body of Christ and to drink his Blood?

Thomas Aquinas answers: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.” God became man so that we all might become god. In Christ Jesus, we are made more than holy, more than just, more than righteous; we are made perfect. Wholly joined to Holy Other, divinized as God promised at the moment of creation, we are brought to the divine by the Divine and given our participation in the life of God by God. We are brought and given. Brought to Him by Him and given to Him by Him. We do not go to God uninvited and we do not take from Him what is not first given. Therefore, “take, eat, this is my body, which is given up for you…” And when you take the gift of his body and eat and when you take the gift of his blood and drink, you become what you eat and drink. You become Christ. And together we are Christ for one another—his Body, the church.

Thomas calls the Eucharist the “sacramentum caritatis,” the sacrament of love. The Eucharist is not a family picnic or Sunday dinner. We’re not talking about a community meal or a neighborhood buffet. All of these can and do express genuine love for God, self, and neighbor. But Thomas is teaching us something far more radical about the Eucharist here than the pedestrian notion that eating together makes us better people and a stronger community! The sacramentum caritatis is an efficacious sign of God’s gift of Himself to us for our perfection. In other words, the Eucharist we celebrate this morning is not just a memorial, just a symbol, just a community prayer service, just a familial gathering, just a ritual. In Christ, with him and through him, we effect—make real and produce—the redeeming graces of Calvary and the Empty Tomb: Christ on the cross and Christ risen from the grave. Again, we are not merely being reminded of an important bible story nor are we being taught a lesson about sharing and caring nor are we simply “feeling” Christ’s presence among us. We are doing exactly what Christ tells us to do: we are eating his body and drinking his blood for our perfection, for our eternal lives. And while we wait for his coming again, we walk this earth as Christs! Imperfect now, to be perfected eventually; but right now, radically loved by Love Himself and loved so that we may be changed, converted from our disobedience, brought to repentance and forgiveness, and absolved of all violence against God’s will for us.

Thomas teaches us that God gave us the Eucharist in order “to impress the vastness of [His] love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful…” How vast is His love for us? He gifted us with His Son. He gave His only child up to death so that we might live. And He gave us the means of our most intimate communion with Him. We take his body into our bodies. His blood into ours. We are made heirs, brothers and sisters, prophets and priests; we are made holy, just, and clean; we are made Christ and being made Christ, we are given his ministries, his holy tasks: teaching, preaching, healing, feeding. This Eucharist tells you who you are, where you came from, where you are going. It tells you why you are here and what you must do. And most importantly, this celebration of thanksgiving, tells you and me who it is that loves us and what being loved by Love Himself means for our sin, our repentance, our conversion, our ministries, our progress in holiness…

Do not fail to hand on what you yourself have received: the gift of the Christ. Walk out those doors this morning and present yourself to the world as a sacramentum caritatis. Walk out of here a sacrament of love—a sign, a witness, a cipher, an icon—walk out of here stamped with the Holy Spirit. Preach, teach, bless, feed, eat, drink, pray, and spread the infectious joy of the children of God!

A Southern blessing: as your waist expands to fill the limits of your belt, so may your spirit grow to hold the limitless love of Him Who loves us always.

*NB. To answer a question asked after Mass about my menu, "Yes, I can cook every dish listed here!" Oh, and I forgot "grits."