Lino Rulli has his own national satellite radio show. He’s a three-time Emmy winner for his work in television. He’s received Communion in the pope’s private chapel, taught high-school religion in the Bahamas and even worked as a sidekick to an organ-grinder.
In many ways, the St. Paul native and host of SiriusXM Radio’s “The Catholic Guy” show has lived a life much different than most people.
But what becomes apparent as you page through the chapters of his new book, “Sinner,” is that Rulli resembles a lot of people we know: men and women striving to live as faithful Catholics but who stumble along the way because of pride, envy, lust and other sins of the “deadly,” as well as the more mundane, variety.
You might even see something of yourself in this collection of short, humorous stories in which Rulli talks about his successes, failures and experiences of God’s grace along the way.
Taking an honest look
“Sinner” — to be officially released Sept. 1 — was the obvious choice for the book’s title, Rulli said in an Aug. 29 interview with The Catholic Spirit.
“I know I strive for one thing in my life and don’t meet up to it on a daily basis,” Rulli said. “So, I wanted to put a book out there that says exactly that: I’m a sinner. I don’t have all the answers; the church has all the answers. I don’t have a lot of things going on in my life that make a lot of sense, and maybe you don’t either. I was hoping people would relate to a book like this.
“I really wanted to grab people’s attention and say, ‘Yes, I’m a guy who tries to live out his faith. Yes, I suck at it sometimes. And, no, I won’t give up trying,’” he said.
One attractive aspect of the book is that Rulli is willing to tell stories and reflect on them with sometimes brutal honesty, even when it comes to embarrassing admissions — like getting arrested while in college for underage drinking and struggling with temptations of the flesh during a visit to Thailand.
Writing about the embarrassing moments wasn’t difficult, Rulli said. The real difficulty was having them published.
“It’s not [difficult] until you put it out there [and] you start getting the reactions,” he said. “You think, ‘OK, my mom has a copy of the book now and is reading all these stories . . . about me doing these stupid things.
“If anything, I just hope that if I’m honest, it encourages other people’s honesty — not necessarily in book form, but an honesty in their own lives and their spiritual lives. We can lie to ourselves, but we can’t lie to God,” Rulli said. “I don’t think it does us a whole lot of good to just pretend we are these perfect people who’ve got it all figured out.”
Given that reality, Rulli is the first to admit that he “would be such a mess” if it weren’t for the sacrament of reconciliation — a topic to which he devotes three chapters in the book. These “adventures in confession,” as he calls them, get him refocused and reenergized to live his Catholic faith. And, he wants others to understand the value the sacrament can bring to their own spiritual lives.
“It’s kind of like when you find a great diet tip, you tell people. If you find something of great value, you want to share it,” he said. “To me, if you take [confession] away, I’m screwed. . . . It’s such an essential part of my life — spiritually and psychologically.
“At the end of the day, it’s another one of those things I emphasize so much because, if I only tell you the stories of what a screw-up I am, and I just leave it at that, you might think that I sin and I don’t care. I’m saying, no, I sin, and I wish I didn’t. But because I do, then I guess the good that comes out of that is me talking about confession.”
Rulli calls the sacrament “one of the best things going on about Catholicism.” And, while “Sinner” is good for a lot of laughs, his hope is that the book encourages some readers — those who rarely, if ever, darken the confessional doorstep — to go to confession.
Rulli grew up attending St. Ambrose in St. Paul (since relocated to Woodbury), went to Hill-Murray School in Maplewood and graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville. He worked as a reporter and commentator for WCCO-TV and KMSP-TV and hosted and produced “Generation Cross” in Minneapolis from 1998 to 2004. He also is a former columnist for The Catholic Spirit.
Minnesota readers will appreciate his stories about local people and places. In the acknowledgments section at the end of the book, he thanks a few from the archdiocese, including Father John Forliti, Mark Croteau, Father Peter Laird and Father Joseph Johnson, who have had a positive impact on his life and career.
“Sinner” — published by Servant Books, an imprint of St. Anthony Messenger Press — has received praise from people ranging from the executive producer of the “Howard Stern Show” to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who gives “Sinner” a back cover endorsement, calling it “a winner.”
Still, the book is not for everyone. Rulli knows he has critics who don’t appreciate his style of humor, which seems irreverent to some. But he’s OK with that.
“I really want this book not to be for the people who go to daily Mass,” he said. “This is a book for guys like me when I was a teenager, when I was in my 20s” — for people who ask, “Should I even try this church thing? I feel like I’m not going to be any good at it.”
“I’m not trying to [reach] the people who already know great Catholic authors and spiritual guides. I’m really writing a book more for the average person.”
And, he might add, the “average Catholic” who tries to be faithful but often falls short. For them, “Sinner” offers comfort, hope and a lot of laughs along the way.
Category: Arts and Culture