Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catholic radio host leads listeners on unusual pilgrimage to Italy

http://worldchristianchurches.blogspot.comVATICAN CITY -- Climbing the Holy Stairs with one's knees, getting a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, visiting the dark catacombs and downing green Sambuca and mounds of pasta carbonara well past on midnight.

That's just a small sampling from the itinerary of a new and rather novel Italian pilgrimage led by the U.S. radio talk show host, "The Catholic Guy," Lino Rulli.

Rulli and 40 listeners of his nationally broadcasted the radio show traveled with Father Rob Keighron of St. Helen Church, Howard Beach, N.Y., to have what Rulli called "the best and the worst pilgrimage in the world."

It was the best, he said, because from the July 10-18 they visited and prayed at holy sites in Rome, Florence, Assisi and Siena. It was the worst because not many people would equate the not-so-spiritual moments of the singing Bon Jovi at a karaoke club and imbibing Italian wines and liqueurs as being part of a proper pilgrimage, explained Rulli.

"I think people like the idea that to be a Catholic, to have a religious experience does not mean to have a sour puss on your face before, during and after" those intensely spiritual moments, that he said.

Rulli, who hosts "The Catholic Guy" daily on the Sirius Satellite Radio's The Catholic Channel, announced right before Christmas last year that listeners were invited to sign up for a nine-day pilgrimage to the Italy.

He said he wasn't sure how long they would have to promote the trip and to get all 40 spots filled, but the trip was sold out on the day it was announced, and more than 100 people were on the waiting list.

"In radio you don't get to interact very much with your listeners," he told Catholic News Service July 20, while he and three crew members were in Rome to broadcast "The Catholic Guy" from the studios of the Vatican Radio.

So the idea of spending the eight days with people you don't know was definitely we weren't sure it would have work, but it was by far the greatest thing I had ever done in my career," he said.

At the beginning of the trip, he joked with his guests that they were starting out as the strangers, but might end the journey as the enemies. They put in 15-hour days and toured cities in 100-degree heat, making it seem "like a Catholic 'Survivor, he said. But the participants still became friends.

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