He needed a squirt gun with all the right specs: solid accuracy at the six foot range, an airtight seal to keep the water holy even in the sunlight, and enough power to douse parishioners with the full force of God.
Tim Pelc, a 70-year-old priest in Detroit, Michigan, has enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame.
The St. Ambrose Parish Priest became the unlikely centerpiece of a new viral internet meme after he appeared in photos of a recent post on his church's Facebook page. The pictures show Pelc carrying out a socially-distanced version of the St. Ambrose annual tradition of blessing Easter baskets with holy water.
But that post eventually went on to illustrate a fundamental internet truth: a quaint, community-oriented Facebook page, though typically ignored by almost everyone, ALWAYS has the potential to be snatched up by the internet hordes.
The photos of Pelc, who used a squirt gun to shower Holy Water upon the Easter food baskets of cars driving past, lent themselves just a little too well to epic modifications at the hands of meme-makers and trolls.
Of course, it all began innocently enough. For a while, responses to the original Facebook post remained homespun.
Susan M. Womack/Facebook
But inevitably, the images, one in particular, would receive some modifications at the hands of Twitter users and the editing-savvy folks of the "photoshopbattles" subReddit community, a place where innocent images are offered up with the express purpose of being changed completely.
The original photo, seen below, captured Pelc in the moment of full water gun extension.
Larry Peplin, via St. Ambrose Parish/Facebook
The Redditors' photoshop work with the image was varied and committed.
Annoyed Exile/Reddit via Imgur
Kyle01110011/Reddit via Imgur
random_usernames/Reddit via Imgur
Twitter was not about to miss out on the action either.
@tripgore Sinners and quarantine breakers get excommunicated from life. https://t.co/9c9NWE7vC9— lonefirewarrior (@lonefirewarrior) 1589660631.0
@tripgore https://t.co/q82M8RjRAw— Jack Hurley (@Jack Hurley) 1589646108.0
@tripgore What I don't understand is THEY ALREADY HAVE A THING... Catholic priests have wanted to distance themselv… https://t.co/8nIzyzFNpc— Roweena (@Roweena) 1589619004.0
The viral moment even attracted the attention of BuzzFeed News, who caught up with Father Pelc and asked for his thoughts on the internet treatment.
"The original idea was to do something for the kids 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?' "
After he came up with the original idea, Pelc checked with a qualified friend--an ER doctor--to make sure it was actually feasible.
"He said, 'Not only is this safe, this is fun,' and he came with his kids."
"He provided me with all the personal protection stuff that 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."
As for the even sillier outcomes after the fact, Pelc was happy to see some fun optimism.
"It was a good news story and people were in the mood for something like that."
"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 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 [the virus]."
In a time when social distancing and the need to stay at home is producing economic stress and discomfort across the U.S., a meme event like this one can be a welcome way to calm the nerves.