Occasionally I have heard Pioneers say that keeping the pledge has taken very little out of them. They joined while still very young so they 'never knew the taste of drink'. As 'drink never meant anything to them' they never felt any inclination to take it. From this they seem to conclude that they deserve no significant credit for what they have done.
While their modesty may be commendable they could be underestimating the significance of the Pioneer sacrifice in God's scheme of things. This is true whether the pledge is taken by a youngster with minimal understanding of what it entails, by an adult who has enjoyed fine wine in moderation over years or by someone who seeks to escape from the horrors of addiction. In a sacrifice we hand over something
good to God. It literally means 'to make 'holy', from the Latin sacrum facere. Whether this is experienced as something easy or hard is not of primary importance. As with all gifts, the important thing is the intention behind it. The aim of the Pioneer ideal is to be of some help to other members of the Body of Christ who are in trouble. And God is always touched by the goodwill in our hearts.
'It is good for someone to bear the yoke from a young age' (Lamentations 3:27). If beginning young makes it easier, so much the better. 'Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a virtue; sow a virtue, reap a destiny'. This old adage applies to the virtue of temperance as it does in so many other areas of life.
Abstaining from alcoholic drink is only one of the dimensions of what is involved in being a Pioneer and not necessarily the most important. Our promise involves three things for the whole of life: firstly, to turn twice a day in prayer to the Sacred Heart on behalf of victims of addiction; secondly, to abstain permanently from even the most innocent use of alcoholic drink as a form of self-denial; thirdly, to publicly profess faith in the Lord's willingness
to change lives for the better by displaying on our person a small, easily identifiable emblem of His Sacred Heart.
When someone reported breaking the Pioneer Pledge, Fr Joseph Flinn, Central Director (1921-43) always smilingly asked the same question: 'When did you last say your Heroic Offering?' A person who does not give prayer a priority in life is unlikely to repeat any prayer night and morning over a long period. If this priority is not there, the chance of maintaining abstinence and public witness over a long time are slim. Keeping the pledge may come easily to one who prays. Otherwise, it certainly will not.