Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Pioneer Pledge and Prayers

Matt Talbot originally made a three-month pledge not to drink in 1884 and later made a pledge for life. He eventually became a member of the P.T.A.A. The following edited content focuses on the Pioneer Pledge and prayers of today from their website at


The special way of faith which emerged from that first meeting in Dublin in 1898 was summed up by Father Cullen in the Pioneer Prayer. Some brief reflections on each of the prayer's phrases, in the form in which he composed them, will help to bring our way of faith better into focus.


I bring You the gift of my Offering, To give You love, honor, glory.
To make some return for Your goodness to me.

The central thrust of the Pioneer Association as a spiritual organization is captured in this phrase. It comes from Father Cullen who, in turn, learnt it from St. Ignatius Loyola, whose motto was: "For the Greater Glory of God." As we cannot say too often, the Pioneer Movement is not an anti-drink movement. Pioneers are primarily defined, not by what they are against, but by what they are for; and primarily they are for God and for his greater glory. We might also recall the phrase of St. Irenaeus, "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." Few things so help the glory of God in our world as the restoration of human dignity to the victims of alcohol abuse and its associated evils.


A sorrow shared is softened by the sharing,
A proof of love is to sympathize with the sufferer,
So I come to console You, wounded by sin.

The masters of prayer tell us that it is a good thing to contemplate Christ in the gospels and that, when we do so, we should take the scenes as contemporary with ourselves. It is especially in this context that people have come to speak of consoling Christ by our love and service (cfr Ps 68(69):20). It is not a form of devotion which is as widely practiced today as once was the case. If it does not appeal to an individual, it need not be insisted on.


Your Heart is the symbol of Your undying love for me.
Those thorns tell of Your sufferings,
Those flames speak of the burning intensity of Your love.

To refer to Christ as 'Jesus of Nazareth' places Him in the context of His Life among His contemporaries two thousand years ago. To call Him 'the Sacred Heart' is a way of underlining, firstly, that our devotion is to the person of Christ; and secondly, that His love for people knows no limit of time and space. Jesus does not belong simply to those who knew Him on earth so long ago. His love is directed to each of us personally, as ours is to Him. Because He is the Son of God, he carries each of us in His heart; because He is a full human being, He cares for each of us in His heart; because He is a full human being, He cares for each with a fully human love; so that each of us can say with St. Paul, "He loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20)


The emblem of Your loving Heart I wear
As a source of strength to many in weakness and temptation,
As a powerful means to counter-balance bad example
As an effective way of lessening the weight of sin.

Usually when people join the Pioneers it is because they have seen the devastation which the abuse of drink can cause in a person's life. But underlying such concern they are also thinking of what this means to Christ, who always takes to heart the plight of those for whom He died. All sin is against Christ in some way. It is always an affront to the goodness and mercy He has shown us by giving us so much. In wishing to repair a fallen world, the Pioneer begins at the top by wishing to repair the offense done to Christ.


One of the most powerful influences in society leading to the abuse of alcohol is the social pressure encouraging excessive drinking. There are many who either wish to drink alcohol in moderation or who do not wish to drink it at all ut are pressurized into going beyond what their own better judgment suggests. By insisting on personal abstinence, the Pioneer helps to create a space of freedom for others, and can be a real support for the weak and the wavering of the consumer society.


Gladly I make this sacrifice for You,
for voluntary self-denial is pleasing to You.
Self-sacrificing love is a mark of Your friends.

In the following of Our Lord, the cross is unavoidable. Mostly it comes without having to be sought; but if we undertake self-denial as a voluntary exercise, it helps us to prepare for those occasions and to strengthen our self-control. It is then an age-old tradition among Christians to offer up acts of self-denial out of solidarity with Christ in His passion. In this way, we identify ourselves with His sacrifice and apply the benefits of His cross to those for whom we pray.


I would make atonement for all sins of self-indulgence, including my own sins,
I would make up for sins and insults,
I would ward off further wounds from Your Sacred Heart.

When one offends another person, particularly a friend, it is only natural to feel ashamed of what one has done and to try to make up; in this way, the fact of one's faults becomes itself a reason for demonstrating one's love all the more. This is a human comparison to help us to understand the mystery of reparation. As well as reparation to Christ, to which reference was made above, there is also reparation to the Father. This is even more fundamental since it is an aspect of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, offering his love to the Father on behalf of the human race; and it is something in which we can share as we offer reparation, not only to Christ but with him to the Father.


I join the spiritual crusade for the sake of others.
You love these people. You died for them.
And my poor prayers and sacrifices can win grace and help for them.

This intention is the spark which kindled the entire Pioneer movement. It expresses the helping hand which the Pioneer holds out to all who are struggling with the problem of excessive drinking. Because of their own abstinence, Pioneers do not have the problem themselves, though they may have had it in the past. However, it is important that our help be given out of compassion, not out of any sense of assumed superiority. Just because the Pioneer does not have this particular problem does not mean that he or she has none. We all have our sins and our weaknesses and have no right to cast the stone at anyone. But one good thing we can do is at least to hold out the helping hand to those who are struggling with the problem of excessive drink.


I promise, not a partial, but a total abstinence,
Not for one year or two, but for my whole life.
Help me to be true to my promise,
Make me a generous apostle for Your Sacred Heart.

The prayer ends with the basic statement of the Pioneer pledge. The very reciting of it is a way of renewing our offering to God.

Rev. Daniel Dargan, SJ

This was taken from and is part of the Final Report of the Interim Board on the spirituality, membership and structure of the P.T.A.A. .... 'Toward A Second Century'

Other Pioneer Prayers:


Juvenile Pioneer = 8-11 years

"O Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer thee my prayers, works and sufferings in union with Thine for grace to keep my pledge faithfully. Sweet Heart of Jesus, be Thou my love always! Sweet Heart of Mary, be my Salvation!"


Young Pioneer = 15 years upwards

"Lord, for your sake, for the recovery of problem drinkers and victims of substance abuse, to make amends to your Sacred Heart for the intemperance in all our lives, I promise not to take alcoholic drink until I am at least 18 and to keep off drugs for life."


Temporary Pioneer = Adult

"For Your greater glory and consolation, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for your sake to give good example, to practice self denial, to make reparation for the sins of intemperance and for the conversion of excessive drinkers, I will abstain for one year from all intoxicating drink. Moreover, I look forward at the end of this period to obtaining life membership."


I promise in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to abstain from all intoxicating drink until ..........

If, however, the pledge is broken, the badge must be taken down and not worn down and not worn again until the pledge has been renewed. Although the pledge may be given to one who is frequently under the influence of drink, the badge should not be given to such. To do so would be of no help to the individual himself and would bring discredit on the badge. The general public are not likely to think highly of the emblem they see worn by a person who was drunk as recently as the previous week and likely to be drunk again in a few days' time. The badge should not be given to unreliable persons until they have proved faithful to the pledge for at least a week.

Strict insistence on this rule by the councilors running the Limited Pledge section is absolutely necessary. Respect for the badge must be maintained and fostered if it is to continue to be a safeguard and protection for those who wear it.

The Limited-Period Pledge caters for:
  • Adults who wish to take a pledge for a limited period only;
  • Adults who, because of previous drinking habits, or through failure to understand the spiritual motives of the Pioneer Offering, are not yet qualified for admission.
Through this section, the Council is enabled to cater for those whom any use of alcohol may be problematic.

Admission may be granted only to those who come personally to seek it.

In every Limited-Period Pledge section, a special register of members must be kept. In this should be entered the name and address of each member with particulars of pledge (when taken and for what period). The register must be signed personally by every person taking the Limited-Period Pledge.


We commend to you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, all whose lives have been broken through the misuse of drugs. We ask you, Lord, to protect them from harm and restore them to health, so that they can live out the years You have given them in serenity and joy. Praise to the Heart of Jesus, our King and our God!


Lord, in Your servant Matt Talbot You have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, dedication to duty, devotion to Our Lady, and lifelong reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Father, if it be Your will that Your beloved servant should be glorified by Your Church, make known by Your heavenly favors the power he enjoys in Your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.