THESE DAYS THERE are guidelines to tell us that almost all forms of discrimination are just plain wrong. For those who see discrimination as a societal recalibration tool it can be hard to take. But as we move forward it behoves us all to embrace a fairer society and treat everyone equally, regardless of race, gender, creed, or whether or not one agrees that the music of Mr Phil Collins is “only brilliant”.
This week we ourselves met the challenge head on, and we put into action the Vatican’s new “positive discrimination” guidelines for the recruitment of housekeepers.
Fr Deegan and Fr Lawlor have interviewed candidates for the long vacant post of housekeeper. A quietly satisfied Fr Lawlor claims that in choosing the right candidate they have both been “thinking outside the box”.
There is a loud knock on the door. Fr Burke opens it to find a rather large muscle-bound Russian man standing in front of him. The Russian man attempts to speak, but Fr Burke cuts him off at the pass immediately. Fr Burke, as he once pointed out to me, is “just a tiny bit racist” and can’t seem to help himself. He initially refers to the large Russian man as “Boris” and light-heartedly mentions “you won’t be getting any free stuff to finance your seedy Eastern European drugs empire here, Ivan”.
After some negotiation, and the combined effort of five priests, our Russian friend releases Fr Burke from his chokehold against the wall.
It would appear that the gentleman is our new housekeeper. “Fr Deegan and I agreed that Dimitri is the best man for the job,” says a smiling Fr Lawlor.
“And he’s all muscly,” sighs Fr Deegan.
Dimitri makes us a plate of ham and cheese sandwiches. He tells us that he is ex Russian Special Forces, and that he left to wander the world on a spiritual journey, having interesting adventures and ultimately finding personal peace.
“Is that because you killed loads of people?” says Fr Lawlor through a mouth full of ham and cheese.
Dimitri says nothing, but his eyes moisten.
Later he tells us how to paralyse a man using just a little finger.
Dimitri makes a lovely energy drink from some fruit and bits of bark he found in the garden. Everyone agrees that it is lovely while Fr O’Leary retches quietly under the table.
Dimitri cleans the bathroom and enlists the help of Fr Ryan and Fr Byrne. Fr Byrne asks him is it absolutely necessary to clean it with tooth brushes. Fr Byrne cries when Dimitri shouts at him.
Fr Byrne has stopped crying just in time for the one o’clock news. We are all taken aback by the story of Naas mayor Darren Scully and his alleged racism. Fr Burke is particularly flabbergasted, shocked, and scandalised, mainly because in all the brouhaha Mr Scully completely forgot to say “I’m not a racist, but…”
Fr Burke turns to Dimitri and asks “Tell me, Boris. What would you do if Mr Scully had said anything about the Russian community?”
While Fr Burke clutches his own throat and lies gasping on the floor, Dimitri takes one of the knitting needles he has been using to knit a lovely scarf for Fr Lynch and snaps it in two. The symbolism is clear.
There is nothing good on the telly, so Dimitri bench presses Fr Ryan and Fr Lynch. Huge applause all round.
Fr Deegan won’t go to sleep because he thinks there is something under his bed. Dimitri checks under Fr Deegan’s bed. Fr Deegan asks him if he will tuck him in.
Fr Lawlor makes the mistake of going downstairs for a cup of milk, not realising that Dimitri is asleep on the kitchen floor. We all laugh about it later, even Fr Lawlor – after he stops shaking.
Breakfast is followed by an impromptu demonstration from Dimitri on how to kill a bear, gut it, cook it, and wear its skin for days when trapped in a hostile landscape. Then he shows us how to make small origami birds.
Fr Deegan gives Dimitri a present of a candy striped apron. We can tell Dimitri is impressed. He puts it on and obliges when Fr Deegan asks “Give us a twirl.”
“Just one more twirl,” begs Fr Deegan. I have to coax him away as Dimitri has to make lunch.
We are shocked to find that Dimitri has to leave us. “I suggest going closer to the Russian border if you want to really find yourself, Boris,” says a helpful Fr Burke.
We watch Dimitri leave through the living room window (he actually leaves through the living room window). Everybody is despondent, but none moreso than a bereft Fr Deegan who is clutching a small origami bird.
Dimitri finally disappears over the horizon. I turn away and wipe a tear from my eye. Then I ask Fr Ryan and Fr Lynch to take Fr Burke down from the coat hanger.