Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Interview With Aggie Catholic Arland Nichols

Arland K. Nichols is the National Director of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. He is also an Aggie Catholic. He will be speaking this Thursday, June 21, at 6:30 in the Church on the threats to religious freedom and what Catholics should do about it. This talk is part of St. Mary's participation in the Fortnight for Freedom (prayer and fasting for religious freedom) our Bishops have asked us to participate in.

MARCEL - Tell us how you got involved in pro-life work?
ARLAND - Through my discernment and education over the years I was increasingly drawn toward education and in particular, education that had as its center the dignity of every human being. This led me to Pope John XXIII High School in Katy where I was the Director of Campus Ministry and Instructor of Morality and bioethics for 5 years. Teaching and writing on various topics within morality and bioethics quickly became my passion and so when Human Life International (which is the world’s largest international pro-life organization) offered me the job to develop a pro-life and pro-family educational ministry to the United States it was a natural fit and exciting opportunity. I am blessed to be able to approach my pro-life work from the perspective of an educator, theologian, and philosopher which gives me a unique niche in an important work.

MARCEL - How has your Catholic faith played a part in your work?
ARLAND - Without a doubt the gift of Faith has played an absolutely central role in my work. I like to say that we are Catholic before we are pro-life, or perhaps more precisely, we are pro-life because we are Catholic. That is to say, the Church, Magisterium, Scripture and our Bishops give us the guiding light that directs our pro-life and pro-family apostolate. To be fruitful pro-life work must flow from the heart of the Church, the heart of our Faith. Further, pro-life work can be quite trying, so faith sustains in those moments of need.

MARCEL - What do you want others to know about the pro-life movement?
ARLAND - Blessed John Paul II told our founder, Father Paul Marx, that he was doing “the most important work on earth.” I believe the life and family issues are the “social justice” battle of our day. The lives of the innocent, those impacted by broken marriages, and the vulnerable cry out to us all to act…to do something about it. The Culture of Death and “dictatorship of opinion” are destroying the fabric of society and the lives of individuals and we cannot be complacent and watch it happen. We must stand up and defend marriage, family, life, and religious liberty. Our world needs us, and we must pray for courage to proclaim His love in truth. If there is one thing that the young should know about pro-life work it is this: We need men and women who seek holiness, who desire nothing less than to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

MARCEL - What do you think will be the next big threat to our religious and civil liberties? How do we overcome the threat(s)?
ARLAND - There is no question in my mind about this important question – the push to normalize homosexual sexual acts and relationships, and to radically redefine marriage. It’s not really the next big threat because it is a frightening, militant, and destructive threat right now. I say this with conviction but also with pause because we must have the utmost respect for the inherent dignity of every person including those who are attracted to persons of the same sex. This cannot be forgotten. At the same time we cannot be neutral toward, or praise disordered sexual acts. Further, the radical redefinition of marriage that is currently being pushed throughout the whole world, especially here in the States will likely destroy what is left of marriage – a sacred and fundamental institution of nature that has been raised by Christ to a sacrament of his love for the Church. It cannot be understated that those who are pushing this agenda are more than willing to destroy religious liberty and rights of conscience in order to secure a so-called “right to love in the way that they choose” to quote a prominent politician. We need to pray ardently for this issue.

MARCEL - Can you tell us about your experience as a student at St. Mary’s?
ARLAND - These were days full of God’s favor and blessing. Most importantly I met, dated, proposed to, and married my better half at Saint Mary’s. My closest friends to this day were roommates and collaborators in the Saint Mary’s vineyard. As is my wont, I was involved in so many activities – looking back, I was over-involved – and I loved every minute of it. I tended to gravitate toward leadership positions and I am grateful to Father Mike, Father David and Father Keith for their patience as I “cut my teeth” in positions of leadership. I have the position I have at my young age today largely because these priests let me learn through my many mistakes. Like so many students today, Saint Mary’s was my home away from home. It is, I believe, the best college campus ministry in the nation and I was so privileged to be there for five years. Yes, five.

MARCEL What is your favorite Aggie tradition?
ARLAND - Why, the end of midnight yell when the lights were turned off, of course! I’m just joking, I promise. Actually, I didn’t care for that tradition. My favorite tradition is the “Howdy” offered to so many people. Not because there’s anything special about the word but because that cordial, joy-filled greeting symbolized an appreciation of people. It showed a respect and deference to the humanity and God-given dignity of the stranger and friend alike. To this day when I see Aggie students at talks I give around the state, I am blessed by their warm, “Howdy.”

Perhaps also, I might consider Saint Mary’s to be the best Aggie tradition. Texas A&M is a great University, and Saint Mary’s Catholic Center makes it the best public university for the next generation to go to school if they are serious about their faith. No doubt about it.

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