When social distancing prevented a Michigan priest from administering holy water, he got creative
They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, but no one could have predicted that would include a priest shooting holy water onto churchgoers using a squirt gun. And yet, here we are, firmly in the crook of 2002’s arm — marveling over the fact that a man of the cloth has achieved memehood for, as one meme-creator put it, being a Supersoaker for Jesus Christ.
Father Tim Pelc of St. Ambrose Parish in Detroit first pinged the internet’s radar in April when parishioner Larry Peplin shared photos of the squirt-gun service on Facebook. Now, Pelc is a bona fide internet sensation for his unique approach to socially distanced holy water administration. And, um, we get it. We’re praying right now that Squirt Gun Communion will become a thing. Or, let’s be real, we’ll be filling up a squirt gun with wine later and blessing ourselves. Hallelujah, amen!
“The original idea was to do something for the kids of the parish,” Pelc told BuzzFeed News. “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?”
Once he came up with the idea, he then had to confirm he wouldn’t be doing more harm than good. Pelc conferred with a friend, a local emergency room doctor, who gave him the go-ahead along with a major personal endorsement. “He said, ‘Not only is this safe, this is fun,’ and he came with his kids,” Pelc shared. “He provided me with all the personal protection stuff I needed. The sun was out. We had a nice turnout. It was a way of continuing an ancient custom, and people seemed to enjoy it.”
Not surprisingly, the church’s Facebook post regarding the squirt gun moment has received an influx of attention in recent days — with several commenters further questioning the safety of squirting holy water at people amid the pandemic.
For its part, though, the church responded, offering more details about why Pelc ultimately went with the squirt guns to bless his congregation.
“A few people have asked why FR. Tim did not opt to sue an aspergillum in order to administer the holy water. By using one, he would have had to drunk the aspergillum into an open container of water, which would not have guaranteed the water’s safety,” they pointed out, adding, “By using a squirt gun it would only need to be filled once, with untouched, sterile, purified water, which he then blessed. To further reassure you, Franc conferred with a doctor to ensure all safety protocols.”
Now that the photos have gone viral, Pelc is having to adapt to a bit more attention than he’s accustomed to getting as a man of the cloth. Still, he understands the draw (and doesn’t even mind his memehood). He told Buzzfeed, “I’m not objecting to it — this whole idea of combating evil is a good one. When Jesus dies, he doesn’t just lay around doing nothing. He goes down to hell and kicks the door in. He really wrestles with evil. We all want to believe that the devil is not the most powerful force on earth and neither is COVID-19.”
Pelc continued, addressing his newfound internet fame, “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.”
Well, with the exception of perhaps one caveat. “It even had two hits in the Vatican, which sort of concerned me,” admitted the now-memed pastor, “but I haven’t heard anything yet.”