News & Blog

Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day Nine!

FAITH: Football, Art & Anorexia.

There are a few meanings of Faith and these never ring truer than when it comes to Celtic Football Club.

It is really hard to pinpoint where my personal religious experiences with Celtic began but I can think all day long of encounters I have had with my Faith and Celtic.

Again it seems fitting to explore this on the 12 Days of Christmas Blog series as Faith and Religion really come to the forefront at this time of year, I know i feel so Thankful at this time of year for my blessings, friends & Family and many other things that have restored my “Faith” over the years.

I suppose my own experience with Faith and Religion really came to fruition when I was in my teenage years. I was diagnosed with Acute Anorexia Nervosa when I was age 15 and I had a rapid decline in the depths of an eating disorder that would take away my whole adolescence. My parents were distraught and I remember my mum really calling back to her “Faith”.

She invited religious messengers into the house to pray for me, share presentations, watch religious short stories and read from the Bible, she took me back to Church and prayed for me openly. When I was hospitalised for the eating disorder later that year I think I felt I was truly praying for myself. How was I going to get through this?

I have gifted a Peter Howson Pastel, it was to be the first in my collection, called ‘The Third Step’ and it depicted a naked man lying in the dirt, dragging himself to savior with a church in the distance. At that moment this piece of art illustrated everything I was and what I was trying to do and it hung, despite its worth on my hospital room wall to inspire me.

I had struck up a friendship with Peter Howson a few years after that and he used to come visit me in hospital, unfortunately, every relapse in my Anorexia I had was worse each time.Ultimately reaching under 3 stone I was a complete shell of my former self and controlled by an Anorexia mind. Peter would send me Christmas cards with religious figures and scriptures from the bible each one giving me more “Faith” to keep going. I would go on to commission works by him that were drawn and painted from paragraphs I’d written about my illness and my idea of religion. Dark, Dark paragraphs that only looking back on can I see how ill I was, completely in denial at the time.

I’ve always had a connection with Celtic but this just grew massively when I started exploring and researching its Religious and Faithful origins. It is worth noting at this stage that I am completely healthy and have been for around 8 years- I have two children and work hard at my business… I have massively been able to fight my eating disorder whilst exploring into the Faith of Celtic Football Club, by learning and learning from Brother Walfrid’s life and most importantly his character of strength, kindness, gumption, and tenacity.

 

Brother Walfrid full image Peter Howson artist.

The iconic image of Brother Walfrid painted by Peter Howson, and commissioned by Nine Muses.

Throughout this time of exploring Brother Walfrid in the context of the Irish famine and in the depiction by Peter Howson from his famous painting, I have been healthy and thankful….This is not a coincidence.

All the qualities of Brother Walfrid I have come to learn, this painting has inspired me to focus on… I have never felt closer to my faith than when I have been Celtic Minded.

Surely Art and Walfrid could inspire so many others – the spirit of Walfrid could change lives forever and by exploring it through art as we have here, we can show the despair, the torment, the isolation, the depression and starvation but also the saviour and beacon of light, We can tell his story through a single image.

When I was speaking to Phil Mac Giolla Bhan on the phone on Wednesday he made the although controversial but true statement “No famine….No Celtic.” This also seemed very true to me when I was starting the Peter Howson Brother, Walfrid Project.

You cant tell his story without taking into consideration the Irish immigrant community and their journeys, it is then we can draw inspiration and Faith from Walfrid.

 

Faith is huge and immense when it comes to Celtic Football Club that goes without saying but I see so many angles on the definition of that word these days.

Like the Faith that was restored to Fans when Brendan Rodgers became the manager and created that invincible team.

The Faith that echoes and vibrates through the veins of every single fan as they stand in the cold singing those epic songs.

The Faith the fans relived through the ’67’ celebrations, the passion that was reignited seeing the footage of the Lisbon Lions.

The club was formed when a downtrodden community on had Church as a place of refuge, the stadium was to be an extension of their faith and religion …”Like moving from the graveyard to Paradise” its nickname itself with such obvious religious overtones, such a perfect name for the stadium that captures the supreme love that people have for this football super-power AND everything its origins represent.

When I initially went to meet Fr. Tom White of St.Marys Carlton because we wanted to give back to the parish, we wanted to give to the original site where these very first acts of charity were displayed, where faith in the community was the driving force for offering shelter, support and of course The Penny Dinners.

The Church halls where the club was formed and where the community would gather for their meals no longer exists so we wanted to explore the possibility of helping rebuild that. If we could support the re-establishment of the foundation for Celtic’s original Ethos then that would be a great way of bringing the culture full circle, hence why we give 30% to St.Mary’s Calton along with 10% to the Celtic FC Foundation. The passion of Fr.Tom is inspiring, a true gentleman that speaks with such knowledge of the clubs history. Every time I meet him I feel thankful for people like him, such a perfect post at St.Mary’s

 

To see and hear the response we have had from the Campaign for Brother Walfrid has been wonderful- The Celtic Family? I completely understand that now.

Football for Good, Art for Good, Walfrid’s Way, Paradise, a Club for all…. as corny as it sounds I know with my Faith in Brother Walfrid I truly will Never Walk Alone.

Merry Christmas

 

Emma