Nikolas Nikas remembers his days at the University of Notre Dame, before he embarked on the challenge that would come to define his life’s work.
“Every young man needs to be challenged to do some heroic deed,” Nikas said. Sitting in the dorm, enjoying pizza and beer with a friend and roommate, Kevin Hasson, he dreamed big. “We wanted to do great things for God,” Nikas said. And they did.
Both men went on to law school, Nikas later founding the Bioethics Defense Fund, a pro-life public interest legal and educational organization, while Hasson went on to launch the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.
Echoing the words of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in his apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach,” Nikas pointed to men’s built-in yearning: “Deep down in the heart of every man is the desire for challenge, to do something great. They need to be challenged to a great mission.”
The father of five adult children, Nikas has indeed been on a mission: he’s spent his career defending human life at its most vulnerable. With a dizzying travel schedule, he crisscrosses the country — and the globe — instructing law students and medical students and speaking at conferences. He’s regularly consulted by legislators, attorneys general and parliamentarians and has testified before the U.S. Senate on abortion and First Amendment rights.
Perhaps most impressively, Nikas has organized and participated in the oral argument preparation for attorneys arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court on partial-birth abortion and free speech for sidewalk counselors.
Through it all, it’s the depth of his Catholic faith that shines. His admiration for and devotion to St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers who was martyred in 1535, was apparent in his remarks at a luncheon for pro-life leaders June 30.
The English saint’s courage and willingness to die for the faith didn’t arise on a whim, Nikas said, but was “born of a lifetime of frequenting the sacraments, vigorous prayer, ascetic practices and the daily dying to oneself that marks the mature life in Christ.” That cultivation of virtue throughout his life meant that he was ready to give his life when fidelity to the Church required it, Nikas said.
In an interview with The Catholic Sun, Nikas acknowledged that most men won’t be called to give their lives in defense of the faith. Instead, they’ll pour out their lifeblood a drop at a time, in ways only God sees.
“Every man who is married, who has a family, has to die to his own selfishness, his own pride, his own desires,” Nikas said. “The father who goes off to a job he hates, who has a long commute both ways for 40 years and has to endure that stress. To love your family is to walk the way of the cross — it’s a white martyrdom. It’s a witness to your love for Jesus and your recognition that no one escapes the carrying of the cross.”
Being a Catholic man, he said, means you have to know what your faith teaches, “but more importantly, we have to know the Teacher Himself. A nominal commitment won’t work. We’re not ‘Lone Ranger’ Christians. We have to answer the question ‘Who is Jesus? Do I know Him? Do I love Him?’ It’s the only thing that’s going to get us through this