Funny and honest. Smart and insightful. Practical and prayerful. Lino Rulli’s new book is an irreverent prayer book, a story of a real man on a journey. You’ll laugh, and you’ll be grateful for his transparent witness. No spin, just a Sinner. That, in fact, is the title of his new book — Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic. And Rulli, host of the Sirius radio show The Catholic Guy, comes close to a full confession with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “Having me write a book about the Catholic faith is like having a really bad actor write a book about the craft of acting. (Speaking of which, why hasn’t Pauly Shore written a book about acting yet?)” Why would I read a book written by the Pauly Shore of Catholicism? And is that very Christian — what you just said about Mr. Shore?
LINO RULLI: Actually, it’s one of the only regrets I have about the book: I’m comfortable making fun of myself. I shouldn’t have made fun of Pauly Shore.LOPEZ
: Is this a self-help book? A memoir? Or is it like watching a car crash (similar to Jersey Shore
RULLI: If this is a self-help book, the only person it aims to help is me — financially and professionally. So this might be a me-help book, not a you-help.
I didn’t write Sinner because I’ve got all the answers, and I want to be your guide. I’m saying, “I’m a mess. If you are too, join me!”
Is it a car crash? No. More like a unicycle accident: sad, but funny.
LOPEZ: “I’m insecure in my own faith and feel like I don’t fit in.” But you have a theology degree!
RULLI: Having a master’s degree allowed me to learn about the faith and to realize how much I don’t fit in with most Catholic circles. I still remember one of my first graduate-level courses: It was filled with seminarians, priests, a few nuns, some older laypeople, and it was a class about sexual ethics. I was 21 years old and single. It couldn’t have been more uncomfortable.
LOPEZ: What made you get a theology degree?
RULLI: I was about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications, I had been an intern at the NBC-TV station in Minneapolis, and I really wanted to get into media. But I had started getting really interested in Catholicism at the same time. And I (mistakenly) thought someone who is a sincere Catholic shouldn’t work in media. It’d be like selling my soul to the devil (well, that part was partially true). So I ditched my plans for working in TV, and I decided to learn more about this Catholicism that I supposedly believed in. So I applied to a grad school — just to see if I would be accepted — and once I got in, I started learnin’ me some Catholic stuff.
LOPEZ: Who is this book for?
LOPEZ: By the way: You watch Jersey Shore? Do you confess that?
RULLI: I don’t confess watching Jersey Shore. I confess the sin of envy! I want the party lifestyle, the gym bodies, and the orange glow.
LOPEZ: Do you really want people to know you first and foremost as a sinner? Most of us put makeup on, we look to show ourselves in the best light. This isn’t quite the best way to walk into a job interview: “Look at me, I’m a mess!”
RULLI: When I went through puberty and ended up with a giant nose, I was embarrassed. Kids would make fun of me. And eventually, I realized I should beat them to the punch: If I make the joke before they do — and can do so in a more comical way than they can — I’m ahead of the game.
Same with my faith. If I tell you I’m a sinner (before you figure it out) I do all of us a favor.
The Church is a hospital for sinners. I’m a broken person who needs God’s help. The sooner people know that about me — and about themselves — the quicker we can get past the posturing that is way too prevalent in Catholicism.