Pioneers Association abstinence from alcohol
pledge is made by Irish Catholics
at Confirmation
In Ireland there is a tradition that children making their Confirmation take a pledge to abstain from alcohol until they're either 18 or 21 (they choose). It's a tradition that goes back to the 19th century, but "The pledge" is in decline. I can't claim to have a great understanding of The Pledge nor its history, but I really don't like it. I never understood the need to raise the topic of alcohol as part of the Confirmation ceremony.

First of all, it's weird to ask children to promise to avoid something that they don't fully understand. They know it's alcohol and they know it's "forbidden," but not much more than that. Lots of things are forbidden to children at the age of 12, which is when most Irish children are confirmed. Why should alcohol be singled out? No other pledges are included as part of Confirmation.

To me The Pledge sullies Confirmation. In times past The Pledge was in the actual Confirmation ceremony. Now it's incorporated into The Service of Light.

The Service of Light is a pre-Confirmation ceremony, which has been added to the Confirmation preparation process in recent years.  The Service of Light is generally held at night a few weeks before Confirmation. Although I'm not much for newfangled ideas, I like the Service of Light. The key part of the service is when parents hand the lighted Baptism candle to their child as an acknowledgement that the child is now ready to be a responsible Christian.

It really is a nice ceremony, but then comes The Pledge, and the discussion of alcohol. To me it just lowers the tone of the whole ceremony. I remember when it came up with my oldest daughter I was really annoyed. I knew there was an abstinence pledge in my daughter's future, but I didn't realize it was going to be right in the middle of the ceremony. I thought it was something they just did in school around the time of Confirmation.
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I understand the motivation. Ireland has an issue with alcohol and teenagers, maybe worse now than ever. But if that's true then shouldn't the whole abstinence pledge at age 12 be rethought?

Getting a group of 15 or 16-year-olds to publicly pledge to avoid alcohol would be a lot harder, I know. Yet maybe those who make such a pledge would actually honor it in a way no 12-year-old can.

There's no denying faith can play an important role in helping people stay on the straight and narrow and avoid the sort of trouble alcohol causes for so many. I don't see any harm in introducing the idea of alcohol avoidance to kids when they're 15 or 16. I just want all of that kept separate from my child receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.