GALLERY: Ordination of Douglas Robertson as Deacon

Congratulations to Douglas Robertson who was ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Cushley at St Michael's Church in Linlithgow on Saturday.

His ministry as a permanent deacon will be at St Michael's where he will assist Canon Paul Kelly.

Deacon Douglas said: "I would like to thank everyone, most especially my wife Margaret and all members of my family. I humbly ask you to keep me in your prayers."

Find out more about Douglas and the Permanent Diaconate here.




Diaconate ordinations: Homily of Archbishop Cushley

Congratulations to Paul Henderson and Peter Shankland who were ordained Deacons by Archbishop Cushley yesterday (14 June)  at the Basillica of St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome.

Several parishioners from St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh were there for the occasion as well as the Cathedral's Schola Cantorum to provide music for the occasion.

Archbishop Leo Cushley ordained both men and his homily can be read below.

Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley

Diaconate Ordinations of the Pontifical Beda College, 14 June 2023, Basilica of St Paul’s outside the Walls, Rome.

My dear sons,

Today, you will be invited to complete another significant step in your training, as you are raised to the dignity of deacon.

Now, if you were listening, I just talked of you taking a new “step”, of being “raised” and to a new “dignity”.

This is a kind of language that we don’t hear much in church anymore, and that sounds to our modern ears a little old-fashioned, even a little pompous or proud.

And yet, in the real world, when people get a better job, or start making more money, we talk with satisfaction of them getting a “promotion”, of “going up in the world”, or of their “upward mobility” in society.

And in the ancient world, whence the Church draws this kind of language, they too talked of moving “onwards” and “upwards”.

Having said that, however, in the ancient Roman world, not even Julius Caesar could go straight to being Consul: everyone had to start somewhere, and everyone had to start on the first step of the stair.

And, standing on that step for a while, and learning about it, and practising it, you could then present yourself for the next office, and then go up another step; and, if elected or chosen to proceed, you moved up to a more senior office again, in other words, as if you were taking another step up.

Towards Holy Orders

This was called the cursus, and the Church still employs its own cursus, or course, as our seminarians pass from the ministries of reader and acolyte, promoting them in due course to Holy Orders.

So, today is a step in a well-thought-out set of steps, that leads you up towards your ultimate goal, the ministerial priesthood.  But getting there is done gradually, literally up one step after another, slowly, deliberately, over time and with time, so that you learn the task at hand, gain experience and build upon it, and so that the step after that can be taken more confidently.

As a deacon, your first task will be to proclaim the Gospel as a herald of Christ; to represent Christ as his ambassador; and to serve others, just as the Lord served us perfectly by His death on the Cross.

This gradual, measured way of doing things, the Church imports from the ancient world.  What the Church does not import however, is the worldly pride that goes with these “promotions”.

Archbishop Cushley celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass the day following the ordination at the Church of Saint Mary of Grace 'alle Fornaci It was concelebrated by priests from the Archdiocese including Canon Patrick Burke and Fr Robert Taylor (St Mary's Cathedral), Fr Nick Welsh (Pontifical Scots College) and Fr James Cadman.

If she talks of your “promotion”, she means that you are moving on to ever greater service, not the command of others.

If she talks of your “dignity”, she means you standing on that step and learning of the duty, of the responsibility that you have, at that level, on that step, so that you fulfill, soberly and to the best of your ability, the task at hand.


Dignity isn’t about what people think about you, never mind what you think about yourself.  Dignity is about understanding your duty and about fulfilling energetically and with a clear conscience the task entrusted to you by the Church, and always in a spirit of service.

All the ministries you receive before being ordained to the sacred priesthood contain an essential component of what it is to be a dedicated and effective priest.

Thus, as a deacon, your first task will be to proclaim the Gospel as a herald of Christ; to represent Christ as his ambassador; and to serve others, just as the Lord served us perfectly by His death on the Cross.

The Word of God is full of power.  It is the means by which God formed Israel into His own People.  As they journeyed through the wilderness, they listened to God’s word.

On their way to the promised land, the People of God became a people, because they were drawn together and formed by the Word.  That formative role of the Word is seen again, and is real and effective every day, in our liturgical assembly.

And it will happen again, as you proclaim the Gospel to your brothers and sisters, to the new Israel, the Church of Christ, and as you learn to preach and live the Gospel effectively, wisely and well.

Proclaim the Word

As deacons, you will proclaim the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ; and later, as priests, you will offer the Word made flesh in sacrifice to the Father in the Eucharist.  But, even now, consider how essential is the task of proclaiming Christ the Word in the Eucharistic assembly.

Note the respect and attention paid to Christ the Word proclaimed in the Gospel, and make it your task to proclaim him and preach him to the very best of your ability.

The Schola Cantorum provided music at the Thanksgiving Mass.

So, a deacon is a herald.  But by the name’s meaning, diakonos, he is also by definition a servant: he is a servant of the Gospel, a servant of Christ and a servant of his people, especially the poor.

As a deacon, you will be a leader in the liturgical assembly, but you are to be a servant leader.  The office of deacon is closely associated with the office of bishop, because, after the episcopate, it is in the deacon that the humility of true Christian leadership is seen most clearly.

All clergy are to be servant leaders, but deacons are the concentrated incarnation of it.

This is why you are called to imitate perfectly our Lord Jesus Christ, who said of himself, that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Today that task now falls to you.


Finally, you are called to this service in the celibate state.

Permanent deacons, those who remain on this step, are not asked to remain celibate.

You, on the other hand, are to be deacons only for a time, and as a part of your training for the sacred priesthood.  It is in this light that celibacy is to be seen, as your acceptance of it is to be a part of your journey into the mystery of Christ’s priestly sacrifice on the Cross.

You time as deacon is also a time of learning and the gaining of valuable experience.

Give yourselves joyfully to the Lord and He will reward you with many consolations, now and in the life to come.

You add it to your time as a lector, forming and being formed by the Word; to your time as an acolyte, approaching ever closer the mystery of the living Lord in the Eucharist; and to that, as deacons, you will add the ability to preach the Gospel; to do it ably; and to make it living and active in the world through a pure heart and a clear conscience.

You will now officiate at baptims; you will bring the Eucharist to the sick and the dying; you will conduct marriages and funerals; you will be a herald of the Gospel; you will learn to be an ambassador of Christ.

And you will do all of this, sanctified by the Prayer of the Church, by your respect and obedience for your bishop, and by the joyful sacrifice and commitment of a celibate life.

So, my dear sons, imitate Christ the Deacon in your loving service of His people.  Give yourselves joyfully to the Lord and He will reward you with many consolations, now and in the life to come.

Embrace the prayer life of the Church; learn the full liberty of your obedience to your bishop; and make celibacy a pure gift of yourself to everyone.

Be the Lord’s faithful herald and true ambassador; and may Christ the Lord, the Father’s true servant on the Cross, reward you. Amen.

Becoming a Deacon: Paul Henderson's story

The Cathedral is my spiritual home. Without the Cathedral, and its parish community, I might not be a Catholic, never mind training to be a priest.

It was through the Cathedral’s RCIA group that I was introduced fully to the faith and, on Easter Sunday at the Cathedral in 2016, received into the Catholic Church.

Being part of the RCIA programme was a profound experience.

Paul (left) with friend and fellow seminarian Peter Shankland. Both will be ordained in Rome on 14 June 2023.

I felt the truth of Jesus Christ growing in me, in the depth of my being, and was continually moved by the piety of the volunteers.

They would be there, always smiling, to welcome us enquirers, despite some of them having come straight from work (and surely exhausted) yet still willing to do this Christian service.

I remember how one evening a young priest from Africa explained his clerical garments and their ritual significance, before vesting and saying Mass.

I was struck as much by the beauty of his faith as by anything.

I remember asking him “how long did your training as a priest take?”

When I said this, one of the RCIA volunteers said to me “It’s not too late to get your application in, Paul!”

That really stuck in my mind, even though, at fifty-one, I presumed I must be too old to train to be a priest.

Beauty of the Mass

When I started RCIA, I thought I should acclimatise myself better to the liturgy, so started attending the twelve-noon Mass.

It wasn’t long before my eyes would fill with tears as I sang the Latin Creed joyously with the others: “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum…!”

Peter and Paul at the Beda College in Rome where they are studying for the priesthood.

I was so moved at the aching beauty of the Mass and can honestly say that the Cathedral choir was thus part of my conversion, as was the devotion of the congregation, and whoever was responsible for the incredible flowers that appeared each week.

I remember Masses when Fr Patrick Burke was celebrating without a Deacon.

I can’t quite explain why, but the image of him on those occasions burnt itself in my memory, an isolated Catholic Priest acting in persona Christi.

I loved the multicultural congregation as well, the myriad of Europeans and “ethnic minorities”, so different from the very white Anglican church I was used to.


My eventual Confirmation in 2016 left me feeling so content.

There were drinks with the archbishop, clergy, and others, after that Easter Vigil, for those who had been baptised and confirmed at the cathedral that evening, and I had the strongest feeling that I had come “home”, by joining a truly global Catholic Church.

Just over two months later, on 23 June as it happened: I went to see Fr Patrick with a strong feeling I wished to serve the Church in a deeper way.

I’ll never forget the leap of joy in my heart when he asked if I’d considered the priesthood.

I will not forget the date, partly because it was the day of the Referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union!

I asked him if there was any possibility I could look into the Permanent Diaconate.

I’ll never forget the leap of joy in my heart when he asked if I’d considered the priesthood.

At the meeting, he continued to say that, at my age, I would probably be sent to the Beda College in Rome. Strange though it is, I immediately knew I was going to this college I’d never heard of in Rome.

Following the call

The next day I called people close to me and told them that I was offering myself as a Catholic priest.

I can honestly say I felt something of the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit pushing me forward.

That said, it took me considerable effort to extricate myself from my career and life in Edinburgh in order to follow the call.

In case this doesn’t sound all too rosy-tinted, I must add that before starting RCIA at this wonderful Cathedral, at the recommendation of a friend, I had approached two Catholic priests asking for advice on becoming a Roman Catholic.

In both cases, I had the strong impression that they were almost bemused at the idea, as if they could not understand why anyone might want to join.

It really was through Fr Patrick that I finally glimpsed the heights and the depth and the incomparable grandeur of the Catholic Church and understood that (as the Magisterium puts it) the Body of Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church, mystically and physically embodied in the institutional Church we see with our eyes, in our congregations, in its liturgy and its social action around the world.

I was also struck by Fr Patrick’s ability to reveal the depth of the Scriptures in his sermons.

Cathedral community

I’ve had such good connections formed with the Cathedral community that in many ways it has become like a family.

It gives me joy that my sister Rowena followed me, joining a later Cathedral RCIA programme and being confirmed in the Cathedral.

Also, my good friends Diana and her children Catherine-Charlotte and Iain, were likewise confirmed into the Cathedral in 2021.

The Cathedral has as well, for the time being anyway, literally become my home. When I left for the preparatory seminary in Salamanca at the start of 2020, Covid hit, and I had to return to Scotland.

Fr Patrick very kindly let me stay at the Cathedral, as I no longer had a place of my own.

This kind offer has extended to the present and I’ve stayed at the Cathedral during breaks from here at the Pontifical Beda College in southwest Rome.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge that I would never be here if Archbishop Leo had not approved it. I am extremely grateful for all the support he has given me.

Indeed, I am indebted to the whole Cathedral community who have been so supportive of my journey. Thank you.

Paul Henderson will be ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Leo Cushley at the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday 14 June 2023. He will be ordained alongside Peter Shankland, who is also a parishioner of the Cathedral. Read his story here. This article first appeared in Crux, the magazine of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Spring 2023 edition.

Becoming a Deacon: Peter Shankland's story

Despite being brought up as a Catholic, when I came to Edinburgh to study in 1992, I was more attracted by the bright lights of the city than by going to Mass!

In 2000 however, having by then settled in Edinburgh, I decided to start attending church again.

I went first to the Vigil Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, where the late Monsignor David Gemmel welcomed me back with open arms.

He told me that he hoped I was doing this for myself and not for my family.

I think he was making an important point.

Soon he encouraged me to become more involved in the life of the Cathedral parish, first as a passkeeper and then as a reader.

While I was training to work as a teacher, he offered me the chance to help with the children’s liturgy.

More than a building

Msgr David’s untimely death was a shock to all of us, and this was the moment I realised that I really belonged to a community in this Cathedral.

It was far more than just a building.

Peter (left) with friend and fellow seminarian Paul Henderson. Both will be ordained in Rome on 14 June 2023.

I became an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister at the invitation of Msgr Mike Reagan, another very wise priest from whom I would learn a lot.

Others who had an influence on me were Msgr Patrick Burke and Fr.Nick Welsh.

For me, they were both shepherds at a time when I could have become lost.

In 2018, I went on pilgrimage to Rome for the Diaconate Ordination of Fr Patrick Harrigan who attended the Beda College (where I currently study) and who is also an ex-parishioner of the Cathedral.

I was very moved by this ceremony, and it was the following day that I realised how much it had touched me.

While visiting the Vatican Museum, one of the great thunderstorms - for which Rome is famous - blew up. Once it had passed, I went for a walk in the gardens.

It was then that I dared to think that God might be calling me to be a priest. It is a moment I recall every time I read the story of Elijah’s encounter with the still small voice of God.

Happy memories

Many memories and impressions of the Cathedral stay with me as happy memories.

I think of the ark at the front of the sanctuary, and the times in front of the blessed sacrament when I felt as though I was raising my heart and mind to heaven when I looked across at it.

I think of being involved in the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum and the occasion when, in my nervousness at the former, I nearly dropped the processional cross.

Peter and Paul at the Beda College in Rome where they are studying for the priesthood.

I remember vividly assisting with the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, and how moving I found the solemnity on each face that came forward.

The people’s participation at the Vigil Mass was also achingly beautiful, and I felt I was a part of a giant family as we moved together into the body of the Church.

When I revealed to people that I had been accepted to study for the priesthood, I was overwhelmed by expressions of love and joy.

One parishioner said she had made a list of people she thought would answer God’s call, and I had been one of them.

Taking action

The movement from thought to action had come about one Saturday morning in the Cathedral, after confession with Fr Binhu, when he asked me to wait and speak to him outside the confessional.

He sensed I was torn about something. That was when I told him that I thought I had a vocation, and he was very encouraging and helpful.

I then met with Msgr. Burke, who said he thought I would make a good candidate, and with Fr Jamie McMorrin, the new curate, who was also supportive.

Fr Jamie encouraged me to attend his ‘young’ adult group for some pastoral and personal experience.

This gave me more confidence in talking about and understanding my faith.

Although I was receiving a lot of support from the clergy, I didn’t at first tell anyone in the parish that I was applying for the Priesthood.

That said I always found my conversations with parishioners encouraging during this time of waiting.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Even though they did not know my plans, I felt we were part of the same praying community, and that they were praying for me (as I was for them) regardless of what I was doing.

I found the Cathedral was a place of unparalleled calm that allowed me to spend time in silence.

As, God willing, I approach ordination as a Deacon this month, I haven’t for a moment regretted the resolution that was formed in that silence, and I feel every day that the Lord is affirming that He has called me into this wonderful vocation.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Rome has of course been a special place to study, but the Cathedral will always be the place where I came back to practising my faith and I will always be so grateful for the love, support, and prayers I received there.

In fact, and in a way I can’t express, I shall always be grateful to the Cathedral community.

Peter Shankland will be ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Leo Cushley at the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday 14 June 2023. He will be ordained alongside Paul Henerson, who is also a parishioner of the Cathedral. Read his story here. This article first appeared in Crux, the magazine of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Spring 2023 edition.

Q&A: Tom's journey to becoming a deacon

Tom McEvoy will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday. On the same occasion, Douglas Robertson, a parishioner at St Michael’s, Linlithgow, is to be instituted as a Lector, a step en route to the diaconate. We spoke to Tom about his journey to the diaconate...

What parish do you attend?
I am a parishioner of the Sacred Heart & St Margaret Parish, Penicuik; My wife Anne and I have been here since 2006 and feel very much at home. Although both of us are approximately 30 years in Scotland, some traces of our Irish accents do remain!

Why did you decide to apply for the diaconate?
I decided to apply because of an incident on the Feast of St Joseph, 19th March, 2016. At the time I was at a weekend conference and woke up during the night, saying “So you want me to become a permanent deacon?” I have no recollection of hearing a voice and there were no lights or bells or suchlike, but something prompted me to make the statement before falling back to sleep. A few hours later, I awoke with a sense of calm that I’d not known previously, and knew I ought to explore the possibility. In the months that followed, Anne and I prayed and talked about it. We took our time and, thank God, it proved to be a precious summer and autumn of unhurried debate, prayer and discernment. Eventually, when it felt right, we decided to make ‘what next’ enquiries.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
I am looking forward to being able, thanks to the Sacramental graces of Holy Orders and despite my many limitations, to help people as God wills me to and to be helped by them; also to learn from them and to share joys as well as sorrows, ordinary days as well as extraordinary happenings, indeed whatever lies in store as we journey together through life ... all the while growing in and sharing and celebrating God’s gifts of faith, hope and love.

Tom, centre, was accepted as a candidate for Holy Orders in May this year at his home parish of Sacred Heart & St Margaret Parish, Penicuik.

What is your day job?
I am a soon-to-be-retired College lecturer who has never quite stopped being a farmer’s son. A career involving research science and science teaching brought me to Scotland and has kept me here, happily engaging with, and indeed learning from, both students and staff colleagues from all over the world.

What is a deacon, and what do they do?
A deacon is a man who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders but who is not a priest or bishop. All priests and bishops are ordained as deacons before ordination to the priesthood. Permanent deacons are men, married or single, who do not become priests. All deacons are configured to Christ the Servant (Pope St John Paul II).

Deacons are ordained to assist their bishop in his doctrinal, sacramental and charitable ministry both publicly and permanently. Part of what deacons are ordained to do is highlighted in the Rite of Ordination: proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. A key statement in the Rite, referring to Holy Scriptures, is: “Believe what you read; teach what you believe, and practice what you teach”. Above all, theirs is a sacramental ministry of service: they are to heed Christ’s example of washing His disciples’ feet and they are to pray the Church’s morning and evening prayer every day for the people of God. Specific tasks include assisting the bishop and priests in the celebration of the Eucharist, assisting at and blessing marriages (if so delegated), and presiding over funerals.

What support have you been given?
At all stages, Anne and I have received wonderful support on all sides, among so many friends at parish and Archdiocesan level as well as further afield, notably including many we know and pray with through Churches Together, locally and nationally. The five-year diaconal formation programme (one year of initial discernment plus four years of part-time studies, prayer and further ongoing discernment) also has been a means of support from many very generous, dedicated and (yes) holy people.

What advice would you give to married men considering the diaconate?
First and foremost, talk to and listen to your wife, and together listen to and trust in God. Seek information and talk to deacons and their wives. Pray and pray again – Stephen, Francis of Assisi, and Laurence (who identified the poor as the Church’s true treasure) are among the saints who can intercede for you. In my own case, St Joseph was and remains my ‘go to’ Saint. I thank him and God and Anne for prompting, shaping and sharing my journey to the diaconate. On the day of ordination, in this Year of St Joseph, the next stage of the journey begins and we will continue to pray: Jesus, we trust in You.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Permanent Diaconate, contact Deacon Ronnie Macaulay:

WATCH: Four men ordained Deacons in Rome

Joshua Moir, 27, from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, was ordained to the diaconate at the Scots College in Rome this morning (Sunday 2 May).

Archbishop Arthur Roche celebrated the Mass, during which a total of four men became deacons. The Mass is available to watch here

Interested in the priesthood or religious life? Have a chat with one of our vocations directors:


Q&A: Josh ordained a Deacon on Sunday!

Joshua Moir, 27, from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, will be ordained to the diaconate at the Scots College in Rome this Sunday (02 May).

Archbishop Arthur Roche will celebrate the Mass, during which he will ordain a total of four men to the Order of Deacons. You can watch the Mass live on YouTube from 10:20am (UK) here. Download the Order of Service to follow along at home here.


When and where is your ordination to the diaconate taking place?
Josh Moir: I’ll be ordained a deacon on 2nd May at 10:30am (GMT), in the Chapel of the Scots College, Rome.

What is a ‘transitional’ deacon?
JM: A Deacon is someone who is ordained for service at the altar and in life. While some are called to exercise this state permanently, in my own case I’ll be ordained a Deacon as a preparation for Ordination to the Priesthood in 2021.

Are there others being ordained to the diaconate with you?
JM: I’ll be ordained alongside my year-mates here in the College: Malcolm Hutchison (Dunkeld), Edward Toner (Glasgow) and Kevin Rennie (Galloway) (see main pic). I knew all three before coming to Rome, and it’s been a pleasure and privilege to work alongside them, and to take this step together.

What did you do before becoming a seminarian?
JM: Before beginning my training for the Priesthood, I studied at the University of Edinburgh completing an Honorary Masters in Philosophy and English Literature.

Has anyone helped inspire your journey to the priesthood? 
JM: As a teenager, I was struck by the witness of many good and holy priests working in our Archdiocese and beyond. This witness helped me to realise the necessity of good priests, and gave me occasion to pray about what my own call in life might be.

What advice would you give someone who may be discerning a vocation to the priesthood?
JM: The most important thing is to go before the Lord in prayer, and ask Him how best you might serve Him. If thoughts of a call to the priesthood continue, look for advice and talk it through with a trusted priest or the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese, who can help your discernment.

Interested in the priesthood or religious life? Have a chat with one of our vocations directors:


Tranent teacher ‘humbled’ as he is ordained a deacon

A TRANENT teacher has thanked colleagues family and friends after becoming a Catholic deacon.

Eddie White, who teaches maths at Ross High, was ordained to the permanent diaconate at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The married dad of three (left) said: "One of the wonderful things about the Permanent diaconate is that we come from so many different walks of life - although I would guess teaching is one of the most common.

“This presented a chance for my family, for parishioners, for colleagues and friends from such a vast range of places to join me, for which I am truly humbled."

At the ceremony, David Edwardson (below) was also ordained a deacon as part of his journey to the priesthood while Tom McEvoy was made an acolyte.

Deacons in the church do not celebrate Mass but can conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals and play a vital role in supporting priests.

Deacon White, who is currently based at St John the Evangelist in Portobello, said he was most looking forward to serving the sick and the marginalised.

(All pictures, Eliza Veitch)


'If you feel drawn towards the diaconate, explore it!'

Eddie White, 42, is a married father of three and a teacher from Edinburgh who will be ordained as a permanent deacon tomorrow (Saturday) in Edinburgh. Here he discusses what’s involved in the process…

Why did you decide to be a deacon?
I felt drawn to it. I have a secular vocation of service in teaching. As a committed Catholic, I felt what I had to offer, what the diaconate wanted and what it gave back to the Church drew me to it and allowed me to respond to the Lord's call in both a practical and spiritual way.

 When did you decide?
I had contemplated it while teaching at Holy Rood High School in Edinburgh. The staff prayer group from that time was quite efficient as one other, older, teacher started the process before me, Deacon John Smith.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
No more essays! I’m looking forward to the chance to serve the sick and the marginalised. Doing this while holding down a full-time job gives me some unique opportunities to be a face of the Church in day-to-day life.

What is your day job?
I am a maths teacher at Ross High in Tranent.

How does a deacon differ from a priest?
A priest has more focus in the Altar and the Word while a deacon's principle ministry is service - to the sick, to the prisoners and the marginalised. That said, a deacon still has a vocation to preach the gospel. Deacons never say Mass - the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is a reserve of priests and bishops. However, deacons can conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals, which not only gives them a ministry of the altar, it also helps release our over-burdened priests to other matters.

Tell us about the training you have to do…
There is a minimum of five years needed. There’s a propaedeutic year - an over-fancy name for the pre-vocations year, then four years of academic and pastoral training. The technical skills for the altar, lighting the thurible in such a way as to not set the smoke alarm off was one key skill I managed. The essays I also managed, and the music theory. However, singing... if that was a required skill I would not have managed the second weekend of training! There were lectures in Church theory, from early fathers to Gospel readings and Canon law and six essays a year. Finally, a homeletics weekend and a seven-day residential summer school makes up the remaining time commitment each year for the four years, plus a day for end of year exams.

What support have you been given from your family?
Without my wife and my mother, this vocation would not be possible. With three young children, I had to get the help of my mum in Dundee for many of the residential weekends. Tanya, my wife, has been very supportive throughout even though, as many of the trainee deacons' wives have noted, it can be hard. There is a real risk that some people forget about the importance of the role of our spouses. There were some frustrating moments for us, such as well-meant remarks directed at Tanya about how hard it will be as "The Deacon's Wife" (sounds like the name of a pub in the Grassmarket or something). Fortunately, my parish priest Fr Jock Dalrymple extended his support to her as well and was always available on the phone if ever she wanted to talk. That is something I would hope every candidate's wife would have available to them.

What advice would you give to married men considering the permanent diaconate?
If you feel you are being drawn towards the diaconate, you should explore it. If I understand it right, I will become the youngest deacon in Scotland at 42. People in their late thirties should consider the training and the draw to service if they feel the call. A chance to meet someone who has gone through it always helps, and I would extend a welcome for a meal and a chat if anyone wants to ask either Tanya or myself about our experiences.

Eddie White will be ordained a permanent deacon at midday on Saturday 7 September at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.