A priest in Michigan has inspired a series of funny memes after social media users noticed his original way of carrying out blessings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Father Tim Pelc was seen adapting the tradition of the Blessing of Easter Food Baskets at St. Ambrose Parish in Detroit last month, using a plastic water gun to spritz people in order to stick to social distancing measures.
Images shared on the parish’s Facebook page showed the religious leader wearing an N95 face mask underneath a plastic face shield and wearing disposable gloves as he clutched his Bible at the drive-thru style service.
Several images show Father Tim using the green and blue toy guns during the Holy Week services where church-goers pulled up in their cars to see him.
‘Yes, that’s Fr. Tim using a squirt gun full of Holy Water!’ the parish posted on Facebook alongside images taken by photographer Larry Peplin.
The 70-year-old priest, who has worked at the church for 30 years, said he came up with the idea while thinking of what he could do for the children of the parish.
‘They were about ready to have an Easter unlike any of their past, so I thought, what can we still do that would observe all the protocols of social distancing?’ Father Tim told Buzzfeed.
Father Tim said it was the outcome of having a ‘pretty wacky mind and pretty accepting congregation.’
He then spoke with an emergency room doctor before carrying out the plan.
‘Not only is this safe, this is fun. He provided me with all the personal protection stuff that I needed,’ Father Tim said.
‘The sun was out, we had a nice turnout. It was a way of continuing an ancient custom, and people seemed to enjoy it.’
Now his images have been used as part of funny memes showing him fighting off evil.
One poster shows him armed with a toy pistol in a Clint Eastwood film poster The Good, The Bad and The Holy Spirit, in a twist on the original title of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Another superimposes him onto a Doom poster where he appears to be fighting demons with his water gun.
‘I’m not objecting to it, this whole idea of combating evil is a good one,’ the priest said. ‘When Jesus dies he doesn’t just lay around doing nothing, he goes down to hell and kicks the doors in, he really wrestles with evil.
‘We all want to believe that the devil is not the most powerful force on the earth and neither is COVID-19.’
The images have been popular not just with US social media users but around the world.
Father Tim said it was ‘big in Ukraine’ and Germany, which ‘led to a whole sub discussion about the types of water pistols’.
‘It even had two hits in the Vatican, which sort of concerned me but I haven’t heard anything yet,’ Father Tim said.
‘I’m a little reluctant, if I didn’t have a mask on in these photos I probably wouldn’t be as happy. But I’m perfectly happy being the masked avenger here,’ he added.
Father Tim said that despite images in the news that have shown people opposing social distancing measures, they are ‘taking the lockdown very seriously’ where he is.
‘Michigan’s got a public face of a lot of people with their assault rifles protesting, but here in south eastern Michigan that’s not the mood I’m getting,’ he said, adding that even though the parish could resume public mass as soon as next Sunday, people haven’t been keen to rush back.
‘People are saying they don’t want to come out just yet,’ Pelc said. ‘There’s still a lot of fear out there and I don’t blame them.’