I Can’t Do Everything!

by | Mar 3, 2021 | Systemic change, Vincentian Family | 3 comments

“I can’t do everything!”

This is the last of a three-part reflection on Chapter 3 of Fratelli Tutti. (See part one “Seeing Beyond My Nose”  and part two “Ever Given Up On a Dream?”

Have you ever been so overwhelmed and frustrated that you say to others…or God…“I can’t do everything!”

Perhaps it has been exasperation with those in your family who were not pulling their weight. Perhaps it was a sense of helplessness when it dawns on you that the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters are far greater than imagined… or ask for more of me than I expected.

Well, I suspect you are not alone. I even suspect that might have been on Jesus’ mind as he carried us on his cross.

I confess to such feelings when I read Fratelli Tutti “dangerously.” I began to realize the implications of being called to see beyond my nose and not give up on God’s dream. I began to realize the magnitude of personal transformation and societal changes God lays out for us.

Getting personal

In this final section of what turned out to be a three-part reflection, I share with you moments when, as I “read dangerously,” felt “I can’t do everything.”

97. . Every brother or sister in need, when abandoned or ignored by the society in which I live, becomes an existential foreigner, even though born in the same country. They may be citizens with full rights, yet they are treated like foreigners in their own country. Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting. 98 (There are) “hidden exiles” who are treated as foreign bodies in society. (I personally think of all the unborn, the frail elderly, the handicapped, or anyone with special needs whether physical, mental, or moral.) 118. The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of color, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.

This next one is especially challenging for me.

120. Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity.  It means thinking and acting in terms of community. It means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few. It also means combatting the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labor rights. 121. No one, then, can remain excluded because of his or her place of birth, much less because of privileges enjoyed by others who were born in lands of greater opportunity. The limits and borders of individual states cannot stand in the way of this. As it is unacceptable that some have fewer rights by virtue of being women, it is likewise unacceptable that the mere place of one’s birth or residence should result in his or her possessing fewer opportunities for a developed and dignified life. 125. This presupposes a different way of understanding relations and exchanges between countries. If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbor was born in my country or elsewhere.

It would be  too easy for me to thank God that the Vincentian Family is acting on these things.  I need to remember that while I can’t do everything, I must do something.

I invite you to read, think and live dangerously doing what you can.



    Thanks Fr John for your reflection. It’s a blessing that I have read it after several days of living with our Yolanda beneficiaries in Ozanam Village, Sara, Iloilo, Philippines for the SSVP COOPWebinar. The Ozanam Village is a project of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (CIAD) through the National Council of the Philippines, BUILDING HOMES REBUILDING LIVES PROGRAM, headed by Ms Mayleen Bernardino. There are 31 houses built in less than a hectare donated by the generosity of the heirs of ROBERTO and GLORIA TIROL FAMILY.The houses were blessed during the Turnover ceremony last September 7, 2019 by Fr. Gerry Vibar, CM, SSVP Spiritual Director.
    Our beneficiaries were mostly fisherfolks from Palina Grande and Palina Diotay in Bagongon Island, 45 min to 1 hr from the main land of Concepcion, Iloilo. They were badly hit by Yolanda in November 2013. A month after, some National Council officers made an ocular visit to the place. I was tasked to make all the needed documents for the housing materials’ distribution last February 2014. We had several areas for Panay island and other conferences took care of them.
    Going to this island in a pumpboat without life jacket, no covering in the scorching heat were memorable experiences for me. I had just my rosary in hand while the small boat was swaying with the waves. I just imagined Jesus with his disciples…. he was my strength. The need for the first communion of pupils from a public elementary school, caught my attention. After so many plans with the parish priest , we asked the help of the VINCENTIAN POPULAR MISSION of ADAMSON UNIVERSITY in Manila for a 2 weeks mission. There were 40 of us, 2 Vincentian priests , alumni and students. It was my first time to join a popular mission together with my students from Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and Colegio de San Jose(Daughters of Charity schools in the city), another gift from the Lord! In 2017, the SSVP WELLNESS PROGRAM, headed by husband and wife, Drs Buddy & Lery Silverio, together with 2 doctors from Manila Doctors Hospital trained Barangay Health Workers. Later a small clinic was built. We had also the Educational Assistance for high school, vocational and college students. Many of these high school students are now in college. Our scholarship program just ended during the pandemic last March 2020.
    So now Fr John, I need to remember that while I can’t do everything, I must do something. We just started our first step in providing loans for buying their motor for their fishing boats and fishnets in the Cooperative Please pray for us all!


    Thanks Fr. John and Bonnie for sharing. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, said that, ” we cannot solve all the problems of the poor”, but can solve the problems one person, the number would be reduced. It would no longer be the same. Marginalized people in the community, loose their dignity and self-esteem. It’s always encouraging for us to do something small, than nothing at all. May the Holy spirit continue to inspire all Vincentians to always do what they can, to assist the poor and the marginalized.

  3. Ross

    John, today’s first reading in Office of Readings reminds me of “I Can’t Do Everything.” A father-in-law tells a son-in-law: “What sort of thing is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone while all the people have to stand about you from morning till evening?

    “You are not acting wisely. You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but also these people with you. The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.”

    To talk of the “indiscreet zeal” that St. Vincent advices us to guard against.