Holding a bible in his left hand and a toy squirt gun in his right, Roman Catholic priest Timothy Pelc sprayed holy water as his parishioners drove by in their cars on Easter Sunday in the state of Michigan.
Reverend Pelc’s drive-by toy squirt gun shooting has since gone viral, reaching senior figures in the Roman Catholic Church and even inspiring memes of the 70-year-old priest, who had been keen to celebrate Easter traditions safely while social distancing practices remain in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the US.
Pelc told BuzzFeed News he is “amazed” at how the photos have been shared around the world.
“It was big in Ukraine…it even had two hits in the Vatican, which sort of concerned me, but I haven’t heard anything yet,” Pelc told BuzzFeed News in an interview.
The Vatican, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has not commented on whether a toy squirt gun is an acceptable method of holy water distribution.
Using holy water to bless Easter baskets and boxes, either full of food or flowers, is a common tradition in some Roman Catholic churches.
After Pelc came up with the idea of using a water gun to distribute holy water, he said he consulted a friend who is an emergency room doctor, who ensured it was a safe practice.
“It was a way of continuing an ancient custom, and people seemed to enjoy it,” Pelc told BuzzFeed News, adding that he has “a pretty wacky mind and pretty accepting congregation.”
Many of Pelc’s congregants have commented on the initial Facebook post expressing their gratitude and praising the creativity.
“A Priest wearing a mask, armed with a holy water gun should scare Satan out of his wits. Just love it,” wrote Sefora-Sefi Gillies in a comment on Facebook.
“Cocked, locked, and ready to rock!!” posted Jeanette Marsilio.
Other users suggested water balloons and fire hoses to really blast the blessing.
Holy water is usually sprinkled on worshippers and objects by the priest in close proximity, but in the time of COVID-19, the tradition is being adapted to fit social distancing guidelines.
Catholics worshippers also typically dip their fingers in a bowl of holy water when entering a church - a practice suspended by most churches in the US in the initial stages of the coronavirus, before places of worship were closed altogether.
The coronavirus has infected 51,142 in Michigan, and over 1.5 million in the US, the worst hit country in the world. The death toll in the US stands at 89,932, with over 281,000 recoveries.