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The Victory of Surrender – Part I of II

The Victory of Surrender
Part I of II

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
(Psalm 127:1)

JanVanGoyenCottagesByTheCanalNo matter how noble our cause may be, how do we know if it’s really the Lord doing the building?

This is a question that was painfully put to me recently. Last year, I heard in my heart a call to launch a new initiative called Heroic Families because there is no more important mission right now than fighting for the true freedom of families who are under severe attack from without and from within—including my own.

For me and my family, it was a radical call because we were at a crossroads of where our family was moving. In faith, we stepped out into the deep and would downsize our possessions, put the rest in small storage and hit the road buying a 36-foot-long travel trailer and a beast of a vehicle to pull it. There was this Abrahamic feel to the call of “go to a place that I will show you.” And I figured that the hardest part would be that initial yes and leap of faith.

God gave my family a little cushion time while planning over a period of six months, and then the important variables started coming together. First was finding the right travel trailer for a family of seven. Next was the right vehicle to pull it. On New Year’s Day, I thought I found that vehicle. After a week talking with the owner, everything seemed to check out, so I drove out to Montana to get it.

This is when God began the real building of my family house. And He did it by razing the one that “I” thought I was building. He wanted me to know that this initiative was His, and He was going to remind me of that by what became an enormous stripping.

We were desperate for a vehicle that could pull the trailer (and hold my family of seven) and I researched for three months to find the right vehicle. We had to be on the road within a week of the purchase of this truck, so this HAD to be it. Everything in the ad and from the seller sounded perfect for our needs — and it was discovered on the feast of Mary, Mother of God — so I saw this as the answer to our prayers.

God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like Him to, but His answers are always wisdom.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Is 55:8-9)

The vehicle ended up having a number of issues that I could not predict, although just the sight of the truck raised flags (for example, what was called “basic wear by his kids” was actually ripped upholstery and a downright filthy vehicle that was supposed to be detailed upon arrival . . . missing ceiling vent covers and other pleasant discoveries. But, I trusted that this was the truck God led my family to and that it will work out (because I was focused more on the mechanical history). The next morning after purchasing it, I was running errands and at the auto parts store (go figure), I went to start it and it just wouldn’t go. That was the beginning of ongoing problems, tows and trips to the shop within three states. The ensuing work done on the truck over the next month ended up destroying our financial reserves and putting doubt into everybody’s mind whether what Papa “received in prayer” was really from God.

MolnarAbrahamsJourneyFromUrToCanaanSmRestoredTraditions REQUIRES HOT LINKFrom that point on, the path of Heroic Families was going to be led by experience more than awestruck theological teachings, etc., with which we were planning to inspire families. We were challenged to live every core message that I believed to be at the heart of the mission of Heroic Families: Abandon yourself to God’s will; Trust unconditionally in Him; Dare to dream big for God; and, oh yes, the Cross is always the final destination before the glory. This was just like God leading Abraham to Mount Moriah and then, after the long journey, giving him the greatest test of faith of his willingness to sacrifice his only son.

Every virtue, it seems, has been tried throughout this journey, and my resistance to trust and humility — when it is really needed in leadership — has almost destroyed our family at times. I say that without exaggeration. The devil is relentless against those striving to live and lead others to the call of the saints, whose ordinary path is the heroic path.

In the midst of the trials we have gone through in the past months, I am humbled every time God reminds me that this is the path of every person who seriously desires to be a saint and raise a family of saints. No one is exempt from it. BUT, God promises fruits — the greatest fruits — to those who surrender to His will lovingly, who trust in His promises unconditionally and who persevere and give God everything they have tirelessly. He did so for Abraham when he made him “father of a multitude,” and especially for His own Mother, Mary, whom He made the Mother of Men and Queen of Heaven and Earth.

My family has been staying at a friend’s beautiful ranch for the past month to discern God’s path forward for our family because we knew He was asking for a change. Little did we know the great surprise that we’d encounter there.


*** Heroic Families is looking forward to see where God leads it to settle down by the Fall. During this launching year, the mission of Heroic Families is mostly supported by my speaking engagements to parishes and through leading retreats. And what is the mission of Heroic Families? To set families on the path to freedom and help you discover God’s unique purpose for your family! If you would like to support this mission and bring the message of Heroic Families and other specialized talks of mine to your parish or event, please reach out to me at Visit for more information about the topics I am offering. I would love to help you build up families in your community!



Editor’s Note: Part II will be found here on our site tomorrow.

Art: Cottages by the canal, Jan van Goyen, 1630, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan, Jozsef Molnar, 1850, Restored Traditions, used with permission.  Heroic Families Logo used with permission.

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About Peter Howard

Dr. Peter Howard presently lives in Illinois with his wife, Chantal, and five children. Dr. Howard is a professor of Theology at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation ( In 2015, Peter and Chantal founded dedicated to the mission of “awakening Catholic families to their critical call to live their faith with courage, passion and purpose.” He is also a Catholic videographer (, author and national Catholic speaker who has spoken at the 2015 American Chesterton Society Conference, 2012 Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas; the United States Air Force Academy; parish retreats and on Catholic radio programs such as Radio Maria. Peter earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas [Angelicum] in Rome, Italy. Dr. Howard's theological expertise lies predominantly in Mariology and the teachings of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He is the author of the 2014 book: The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen. Like his spiritual mentor, +Fulton Sheen, Dr. Howard is passionate about evangelizing families by communicating the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith as the answer to the challenges and errors of the world. If you would like to invite Dr. Howard to speak at your parish or event, contact him at

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  • Judy Silhan

    Dr. Howard, I have been so wanting to know how your travels have gone so far this year. Thanks for sharing. I can feel the exasperation you must have gone through as God allowed the testing. It seems so typical, that whatever we decide to do for our Lord, and we feel it in our hearts, whether it be a gigantic leap of faith, as you and your family of seven did, in taking Heroic Families on the road, or a small attempt at improving one’s prayer life, Satan and his minions are waiting to pounce, and try and destroy those efforts. Sounds like you and your family are getting a little respite. Anxiously awaiting your next post, with much prayer for you all. God Bless, Dr. Howard.

  • Thereseroses

    What a great time for me to read this, it sounds so similar to a strong battle that my family is going through!

    • Dr. Peter Howard

      I will pray for them!

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