God & I: Lino Rulli

January 08 2024 | by

WHAT CAN you tell our readers about the religious education you received as a child?

I was raised Catholic. So while I learned Math, Geography, Science, English, and Catholicism, I can’t say religion interested me much back then.

My mom was my Catechism teacher and one day she asked the class who the first Pope was. No one had an answer. Then she asked me, assuming I would have learned it at some point… but I answered, “Moses.” I didn’t even get the right Testament! So obviously I didn’t know much about faith in those days, but it was always a part of my life. Only later on, when I was about 21 years old, did it become important to me.


Beyond your family, who was the person who most helped you to grow in faith?

Two people. One did so from a distance, and that was Pope St. John Paul II. He became Pope when I was 7, and whenever I visited my family in Rome we would make it a point to go to St Peter’s and see him. He was like a grandfather to me, and when I got to meet him in 1999, all I could say was “Thank you, Holy Father.” I wanted to be Catholic; I wanted to go to church and to confession and all these things in large part because of him.

Then in my 20s I became friends with a priest named Father Joseph, and through this friendship I deepened my faith. He still plays a big part in my life.


What motivated you to pursue a career in broadcasting and in particular to cover Catholic topics?

I’ve always loved TV and radio, and in college I decided that I wanted to become a broadcaster. But in my senior year I decided that religion was more important, so I put away the idea of broadcasting and started studying theology, eventually earning a master’s degree in the subject. Originally I was thinking of teaching theology, but then, after a few years, I realized I could incorporate broadcasting and religion at the same time. Maybe God gave me the love of broadcasting and of my faith for a purpose.


In 1998 after a few jobs as a reporter for two television stations, you started hosting and producing Generation Cross, a television show from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Aimed at Generation X Catholics, the program ran for 6 years. How did you come up with the idea of this show?

I was 26 years old, and there were a lot of TV shows on regular networks that had people in their teens or 20s hosting shows about entertainment, sports and whatever. But there really wasn’t anything religious for people in their 20s or 30s. Religious programs were hosted by older people for older audiences. So back then I thought, “Let’s get a bunch of people in their 20s and 30s who have broadcasting experience, but who also like being Catholic. Not necessarily people who are even great at being Catholic or who are perfect, but lay people in their 20s and 30s who will invite priests and nuns to the show. That was the whole concept of the show, taking religion and putting it into real life. And add a lot of humor. Somehow, the show worked.


Soon after finishing this program, you plunged into the world of radio, first hosting Lino at Large and then The Catholic Guy Show, which still airs weekdays on The Catholic Channel on the Sirius XM Satellite. Who is this program aimed at? And what are the reasons for its success?

I originally pitched the show as simply a funny Catholic radio show. Like, a show for people who wouldn’t normally listen to Catholic radio. It’s entertainment; not a catechism class. It’s a radio show for Catholics, sure, but it’s really for everyone. We talk about sports, TV, radio, movies, music, but through a Catholic lens.

I don’t talk Church news or speak about what’s happening at the Vatican, because I don’t see how that gets people closer to Jesus. I just talk about what it’s like being Catholic. That is, going to church on Sundays, going to confession, I love the stories of the saints, etc.

Jesus was a storyteller; He met people at their level and told them stories. I try to do the same in my radio show. Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t mean to equate myself to Jesus! I’m just saying I try to hook people with stories, with humor, and it’s a radio show. It’s not brain surgery or something actually important.


But you didn’t stop at TV and radio programs, you also became a writer. What can you tell us about the two books you have published so far?

The thing I love about radio is its immediacy. Two hours a day for five days a week is a lot of talking. What I don’t like about radio is that, once the show is done, it’s gone. A radio show is a bit like confession: once your sins are forgiven they are gone and separated from you like the East is from the West. And so the problem of radio is we spend all day on the show and suddenly… it’s done. Gotta start over the next day. And what I love about writing is there is some permanence. It’s something that I can look back to and that other people can look back to whenever they like.

I wrote my first book, Sinner, specifically because I wanted a book out there for people who feel, “Oh, I’m a sinner. What have I got to do with religion? Do I have a place in the Church?” The idea was to write a book telling people that everyone can fit into the Church, even sinners.


You have taken care of programs directed especially at young people. Do you think that the younger generation is actually interested in religious topics?

I think everyone is attracted to religion, but not everyone is aware of it. I think most people are so busy between school, dating, getting a job or starting a career that sometimes it’s difficult for them to say what role religion can play in their lives. Or as a friend of mine said years ago about religion: “Make me care.” In other words, my job is to make you care about faith. Let you see why it’s important.

But because everyone is so busy, it’s easier to put off working out or eating healthy or learning about faith. So I don’t think people are against religion for the most part, but that the Church has not always done a good job of explaining to people that faith is a gift – not a burden.


A few months ago, an Italian media expert said that people are more interested in religion than in the amount of time that the media actually devotes to this subject. Is this also the case in the United States?

Absolutely. Some of my religious friends think the media is out to get us. But in reality, I’ve got so many friends who are broadcasters, but they don’t know how to talk about religion. Now there are a number of reasons for this, including the American sentiment that there needs to be separation between Church and State. Because of this, there is sometimes hesitation in the media to talk about religion. Or talk about the role faiths plays in our personal lives.

But there’s another reality about media, at least if we’re talking about news, and that is this: You’re never going to see a news story about the car that drove home safely. When I was a TV reporter, if I’d pitched that story, my colleagues would have been very confused. Because that isn’t news. It’s the car that exploded on the way home… that’s news. And so religion doesn’t often get its story told because every single day the Church is doing good things: feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, clothing the naked, and it’s not news. Because Jesus commanded us to do so.


In recent years the figure of the priest has been greatly compromised by scandals of various kinds. In your opinion, what are the indispensable qualities of a good priest?

Ask any adult who their favorite teacher was growing up, and I think we all have an answer. Probably right away. For me, it was my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. McDonald. Why was she my favorite? She loved us kids. She cared about us. She encouraged us and showed an interest in us. Most of us remember our favorite teachers because they were in our lives and they wanted to be in our lives.

The best priests I know, and there are so many great priests, are the ones that love their people, and the people know that they are on their side; that they are there for them in confession, at Mass, at baptism and for all the sacraments. They are there for them. We know they care.


You have won three Emmy awards and were the first person to receive an Emmy for hosting a Catholic TV show since Bishop Fulton Sheen. Are awards important to you after having received so many of them?

The first time I won an Emmy Award I was so excited. And a friend pointed out to be careful that it wouldn’t become like a golden idol, or a golden calf, in my life. To be honest, though, I thought it would make me somebody in the television business; that it would help make me money or gain more respect. All of this, however, was really just an expression of my insecurity. Which is why I’ve been in therapy for so many years!

So while it isn’t important to me anymore, what I do think is important is that whatever our craft, we take it seriously. In entertainment, science, education, you name it. To take the craft seriously and to take our faith seriously.

I’m fully alive when I’m serving God, when I am using all my talents, gifts and abilities for the Church and the greater glory of God.


How do you perceive God?

When I close my eyes I think of Jesus, I think of Jesus as we see on the image of the Shroud of Turin. That’s the face I have of Jesus. Believing that God is love, and feeling God’s love are two very different things. To know intellectually that God is love, and God loves us… and to internalize how much God loves each and every one of us… is probably the work of a lifetime. And I’m not quite there yet.


In your second book Saint: Why I should be canonized right away, did you by chance also mention St. Anthony of Padua?

Of course I did. When you lose your car keys, sunglasses or anything else, St. Anthony never fails to find them for you. I remember a few years ago my wife and I were in the Bahamas, swimming in the ocean, when she lost her sunglasses. I asked Saint Anthony to help us, and within minutes they washed up on the shore.

Now it’s ridiculous, of course, to see a saint merely as someone who helps you to find lost items, as if he were a metal detector. The Saint of Padua, in fact, should be invoked for much more important matters, like finding one’s peace of mind or even of one’s faith if one has lost it.

The first time I visited St. Anthony’s Tomb was on a vacation with my family, and it was a very moving experience to see the love and devotion people have for him.

Saint Anthony was a very learned man because he had studied the Bible for many years. He had the gift of being able to convey his faith and devotion to ordinary people. He was an amazing, story-telling orator, and so I also ask for his intercessions in my job. I can’t speak as well or as eloquently as him, but I’ve gotta keep trying.


Your wife Jill is expecting. Is the prospect of becoming a father changing you for the better?

Absolutely. Though to be fair, it would be difficult to change me for the worse at this point in my life.

But I’ve never been more scared than now. I’ve never seen more clearly than now how much our lives are completely in God’s hands. I just keep repeating “Jesus, I Trust In You.”

So often in life all we ever talk about is work, school, our careers, the bills to pay. We are always occupied or worried about something, but in the end we know that the greatest blessings are physical and mental health, so what I’m praying for right now is for my baby to be born healthy.

I’m 52 years old and I’ll be a first time dad. It proves God must have a wonderful sense of humor if He has had me waiting such a long time for this blessing.


What wishes would you like to extend to our readers for the New Year that has just begun?

The New Year is always a time to make resolutions, to start afresh. And while I’m going through a lot of changes in my life through the experience of becoming a father to a baby girl, I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

What I love so much about Catholicism is that we have a Church of second and even third chances. No matter how many times I screw up, our Church tells us that God is always there to love us, to forgive us, to pick us up again to start again. So my 2024 wishes to your readers is that the New Year may offer them the chance to start over.


BORN ON October 26, 1971, Angelo ‘Lino’ Rulli is an American radio host, author, producer, and former television host. He is currently the host of The Catholic Guy radio show, which is aired on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio, and Lino at Large aired both on The Catholic Channel and syndicated throughout North America. He was also the executive producer and host of the Emmy Award-winning television show Generation Cross. In addition to his radio and television work, Rulli has released two books, Sinner: the Catholic Guy Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic and Saint: Why I Should be Canonized Right Away, both of which discuss Catholicism in a comedic tone through personal anecdotes.

Lino is married to Jill and has just fathered a wonderful baby daughter. Visit his website at: www.linorulli.com



Updated on January 08 2024