“So a Priest Walks Into This Gym, and Says…”

by Nancy Wurtzel on March 12, 2012

Since returning to my native state late last year, I have been reminded that Roman Catholic church is a force unto itself in Minnesota.  In my small home town, you can turn on the television at any time of day and find a catholic mass being said, a nun being interviewed or lay people talking about church activities.

My father was Roman Catholic and very devout, but my mother was Protestant and that’s the church my sisters I attended.  When I was growing up, most of my friends were Catholic and our little hamlet  has not one, but two very large Catholic churches.  I’d say Catholicism is pretty much woven into the social landscape.

With that in mind, I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised when the church made its presence known recently at my gym.

Yes, you read that correctly.  My gym.

It was the middle of the afternoon.  There were five or six other people working out on machines, and I was lucky to get one of the three working treadmills.  I’d been walking for about 15 minutes when I glanced up and saw in the wall-to-wall mirrors that everyone in the gym was staring intently at the bank of three televisions.

Looking up, I could see a Catholic mass in progress…on all of the screens.

Then, in unison, almost everyone in the gym began genuflecting and responding to the priest’s greeting and prayers.  Next, they bowed their heads in prayer.

Uh, oh.  What was I supposed to do — give my fellow gym rats the agnostic stink eye or fake my participation?  Recite a litany or just wait it out and hum along to a hymn? What in god’s name is the proper gym protocol in this situation?

As the mass continued (both on the screens and in the gym), I got to thinking: Isn’t there a law mandating separation of church and gym?  I was definitely under the impression that this gym was secular.  I’m still a fairly new member, but I don’t recall anyone telling me about mandatory mass on Monday afternoon.

I’d have to find my contract and look at the fine print.

In the meantime, I took a deep breath, turned off my iPod, and decided to remain neutral, but respectful.

I can tell you that I’ve been to a lot of Roman Catholic masses in my life, but this one was certainly the oddest.  Yet, it was obvious I was the only one who thought it was in the least bit weird.  Everyone else seemed quite happy to squeeze in a workout and connect with their heavenly father.


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1 Amber Ellison Walker June 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

As a personal trainer I’ve definitely heard a lot of ‘praying’ in the gym – but nothing like this!!

2 Nancy Wurtzel July 15, 2012 at 9:11 am

I hear you!!

3 Eric May 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

I admit that is odd sounding; I consider myself to be a fairly devout Catholic, and if I saw a mass on TV and I decided to “join in”, I wouldn’t take it to the extreme of genuflecting or voicing my responses out loud. First off, it’s not a mass if you aren’t there in person…it may be good soul food, but strictly speaking, and officially, it’s not mass (because there is no communion). It’s like hearing my favorite song on my mp3 player…I might sing along in my head…I might even mouth the words, but I’d never sing out loud in the gym.

But more to your point, I think you are over thinking this…if I were “joining in”, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind an bit that someone else in the gym wasn’t participating…it just isn’t that big a deal. If someone comes to my church and doesn’t genuflect, or say the responses, I don’t get upset with them, so why would I in a non-church setting?

4 Nancy Wurtzel July 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

My posts are meant to be funny (mostly) so you just have to read and go with the flow. This happened pretty much as written and it was quite bizarre. I had no intention of joining in…but still, one does feel a bit left out!

5 Maddie Kertay April 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Oh Nancy, I would check my contract but only after I was sure I was not going to wet myself. I mean really , I am there to work out not pray.. I sure I am praying.. ” please Lord let me not fall off this stupid treadmill and break a wrist” but you get what I mean. I would not be expecting a mass and if I was I sure would not be wearing a semi supportive sports bra to the event! 🙂

Maddie- former Catholic, but even more gym-lapsed

6 Nancy Wurtzel April 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hey Maddie, Thanks for coming to read and for the comment! Yes, it was pretty weird…like someone else commented: “I want to just work out — no prayer with my pilates, please!” Honestly, it is pretty weird here (very, very religious) but so much to blog about so there is that! Cheers!

7 June April 12, 2012 at 8:06 am

Fantastic!! This post is excellent. It made me laugh. After the day I’ve had I needed it. Thank you 🙂

8 Nancy Wurtzel April 12, 2012 at 8:36 am

Great! My goal was accomplished. It was, however, all true. My yoga teacher’s husband happened to be there the same day and he read my post and told her “I was there, too!” Come back to read and tell your friends.

9 Laurel March 17, 2012 at 5:59 am

At the moment, I’m just so glad I’m not catholic. 😉

10 Nancy Wurtzel March 30, 2012 at 5:53 am

Yes, totally agree!

11 Angie Alaniz March 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Funny, I could actually see it happening and relate to the pic as well.

12 Nancy Wurtzel April 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

It DID happen!

13 Sue Smith March 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Lol…. I don ‘ t think I would have the coordination to intercept my workout with a genuflect!!! Miss you my friend ! In new jersey now visiting dad who is I’ll… Will talk to you soon! When are you coming back !! California needs you!

14 Nancy Wurtzel March 30, 2012 at 5:53 am

Thanks Sue!

15 Kelly March 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Wonderful – can’t wait to show my husband – a Wisconsin native/lapsed Catholic – he’ll love this! Glad you’re back – I’ve misssed your blogs…..

16 Nancy Wurtzel March 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Why, thank you (bows low)!

17 W.S. Winslow March 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

I don’t know — multi-tasking while worshipping? Seems to be missing the point somehow, no?

18 Nancy Wurtzel March 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

Oh, I think they miss the point quite a lot here.

19 Kara March 13, 2012 at 10:53 am

That is weird! Are you sure it wasn’t planned – some sort of “Pilates and Prayer” class?

20 Nancy Wurtzel March 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

Ha! Pilates and Prayer! Too good….Thanks for reading and for the comment. You made me laugh out loud at my local coffee shop (I think they are praying for me at the next table).

21 Joanie March 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

So funny, loved it!

22 Nancy Wurtzel March 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

Hey Joanie,
Thanks for reading and for the comment…yes, it was funny and very, very weird! Please tell your friends about Dating Dementia!

23 Your Daughter March 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Dying of laughter… 😀

24 Nancy Wurtzel March 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

All true! I swear (to god)

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