Lucky there's a 'Catholic Guy': Radio host taps into male zeitgeist

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

By Jonathan Liedl

(CNS) — Lino Rulli doesn’t have any children of his own. Married two years
ago, the 46-year-old and his wife, Jill, are hoping that changes soon.

But the
Minnesota native and Catholic media personality is already the pater familias
of his own unique brood: a devoted community of listeners to “The Catholic
Guy,” a weekday afternoon drive program on Sirius XM Radio’s Catholic Channel,
which Rulli has hosted since it started in 2006.

200 members of this tight-knit crew came to the Twin Cities Aug. 17-18 for
“Catholic Guy Con,” which sold out in 24 hours. The main event consisted of a
recorded show and presentations from Rulli and his co-hosts, preceded the night
before by a meet-up at a downtown Minneapolis brewpub. Mass celebrated by
co-host Father Jim Chern, dinner catered by a St. Paul Italian eatery, and a
visit to Rulli’s high school alma mater, Hill-Murray in Maplewood, were other

biggest takeaway from this experience is just a feeling of gratitude,” said
Rulli, who admitted he had no idea the event would be such a success when it
was being planned. “I’ve found myself thanking God over and over again for this
career, and for our audience, and how lucky I am to be able to be in people’s

the event was the first official Catholic Guy Con, for many fans it was not the
first time they had gathered with each other and Rulli, who hosts several
pilgrimages for Catholic Guy devotees each year. One Catholic Guy Con attendee
had been on five.

But for
listeners like Chuck Fanelli, who went to the Holy Land with Rulli in 2017,
Catholic Guy Con was something special, a unique opportunity to be together
with all four current members of the show and hundreds of other Catholic Guy

“I said
there’s no way I’m missing this,” recalled the 33-year-old New Jersey native,
who has listened to every episode of “The Catholic Guy” since he first came
across the program two years ago — and still came even after he found out his
wife was due to deliver their third child only days after the fan fest.

Catholic Guy community) energizes me, renews my faith, and really helps me get
back to being a better husband and father,” said Fanelli, who made it home in
time for the birth of his son, Michael Paul. “We all feel like family. A big,
weird family.”

many Catholic Guy followers, the show provides the type of community they don’t
find elsewhere. When they listen to “The Catholic Guy,” they’re plugged into a
relatable community of Catholics, and are encouraged in their Catholic faith.

the show recording at a Minneapolis comedy club, attendees wore shirts with Catholic
Guy catch-phrases, tweeted from Twitter accounts named after on-air gags, and
called on Rulli to play favorite sound bites from the show.

“Wow, I
feel like I’m the leader of my own cult,” joked Tyler Veghte, the show’s quirky
but beloved atheist producer, after attendees sang along by heart to the
musical introduction of the popular “What’s on Tyler’s Mind?” segment.

while Veghte and co-hosts Father Chern and Mark Hart have their own unique
followings among fans, make no mistake about it: “The Catholic Guy” begins and
ends with Rulli, the Catholic Guy himself.

show is infused with his personality, from the sarcastic, self-deprecating
sense of humor that targets his big nose and his co-hosts alike, to the
soundtrack provided by the Foo Fighters, his favorite band.

The show’s
approach to Catholicism is also Rulli’s own. He believes being Catholic
shouldn’t be “compartmentalized,” and mixes faith freely on air with humor and
discussions on everything from sports to what he’s watching on Netflix. It’s
this playful and occasionally irreverent style that makes “The Catholic Guy” “your
home for pure Catholic pleasure,” as its tagline states.

But the
show isn’t all laughs. For Rulli, who has won three Emmy awards for his previous
media work as a television host and producer, it’s also a craft he takes
seriously. As his co-hosts noted at Catholic Guy Con, Rulli’s goal is first and
foremost to make a great radio show, one that normal people will want to listen

acknowledged this might be especially important now, in the midst of the
unfolding crisis of cover-ups of clerical sex abuse. He briefly addressed the
controversy on-air recently, but also recognizes that his program has a
different role to play than news analysis.

think people need a respite from the bad news,” he said. “So, without saying it
explicitly, every day I go on the air and say — in as entertaining a way as
possible — ‘Here’s why I’m Catholic. Here’s why I love it. In spite of it all,
here’s what’s beautiful and true about the faith.'”

bottom line is I host a funny Catholic radio show,” Rulli told The Catholic
Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “That’s what
I get paid to do and people seem to enjoy it.”

began honing the skills from his days in theater at Hill-Murray, to the campus
radio program he hosted at St. John’s University in Collegeville, where he
earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in theology. Rulli
also got his television start in the Twin Cities, working for WCCO and KMSP
before launching “Generation Cross,” a Catholic TV show that combined fun and

Rulli now resides in New York City, where he also serves as media advisor to
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, he says his Minnesota upbringing shapes
the way he sees the world and the church. As he put it, “If it wasn’t for my
time on TV here, there wouldn’t be ‘The Catholic Guy’ show anywhere.”

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Liedl writes
for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and

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