STEUBENVILLE — Kindergarten through 12th-graders in the Diocese of Steubenville “Ask the Bishop,” Jeffrey M. Monforton.

Q: Who does the Pope confess to?

A: It would seem that it is impossible to find a suitable confessor for the Successor of St. Peter, our Holy Father, Pope Francis. In reality, any priest would suffice for Pope Francis’ celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, where the Holy Father is the penitent (the one confessing sin, and requesting forgiveness and God’s grace).

While we do not have a Skype broadcast of Pope Francis going to confession at St. Peter’s Basilica, or elsewhere, we can be confident that he benefits from the same Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation as we do. Last November, at a papal audience, Pope Francis said he goes to confession every two weeks. The Holy Father went on to say that, “God never tires of forgiving those who repent, but also knowing that having a priest say, ‘I absolve you,’ reinforces belief in God’s mercy” (taken from a report from Catholic News Service).

As the chief shepherd of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis leads by both word and example. This occurs even to the point where our Holy Father reveals that he is a sinner, and like any one of us, is in need of God’s mercy and love.

Q: Is it a sin not to pray every day?

A: God created each one of us in his image and likeness. However, this does not mean that we know everything God knows, or if what we are doing is actually right all of the time. Think about it: In the previous question we take note that all of us are capable of doing exactly what God does not want us to do. We sin. Sin is a “deliberate thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the law of God.”

It seems to me we each need to ask the question why we may not pray every day. Have we relegated our relationship with God to a secondary status to our own will and desire? Is it our intention to avoid God? Or, have we fallen into a bad habit of avoiding God?

Not praying to God may be the result or consequence of us sinning. Maybe we have done something wrong and we think that God will not listen to us because we crossed him? Perhaps us not in prayer each day is our way of telling God that we do not need him? These are just questions, of course, but they are worth asking. Moreover, I, as a member of the clergy, have made a promise to pray every day and for me to break that promise is a sin.

I do not pray every day in order to avoid sin. I pray in order to give God the glory he deserves from me and to further elevate myself to his enduring love. It is through prayer where so much coalesces into Jesus Christ’s will for me and the work I must do as your shepherd.

Q: Why did God command the Israelites to kill so many people in the Old Testament?

A: Those of us familiar with the Old Testament know that much bloodshed occurred on behalf of the chosen people in the settling and defense of the Holy Land. As many of us have read, the ancient era in which the Old Testament stories happened were uncivilized and even vicious times. Uncivilized cultures were capable of uncivilized practices. Many stories are so sad that they cannot even be printed for public consumption. We know that God is a loving and patient God, but we also are aware that God has a plan and it involves the “bigger picture.”

Perhaps so much bloodshed occurred during the establishment of the Holy Land in order that even greater atrocities may be avoided? This ancient era contained many a war, of which several were between nations for sheer survival. As history instructs, we need to evaluate each era in its own context. Just think of how patient and tolerant God had to be with these ancient cultures. Unfortunately, the only language some cultures or ancient peoples Israel encountered was one of war and violence against all of humanity.

From the Book of Genesis through the Book of Revelation, we take note that God is full of mercy and love. It is our calling as fellow Christians not to test God’s mercy and love, but to embrace it. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the promises that were made by God to Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus himself teaches that we are his. We are meant to embrace and to imitate the divine mercy and love God shares with us each day.

Together let us pray for peace in our world, confident that the true and lasting peace only happens when we follow unreservedly the Prince of Peace.

Youth who want to “Ask the Bishop” should contact the diocesan Office of Christian Formation and Schools. Questions should be addressed to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator. Questions can be mailed to Taylor at P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, or emailed to him at jtaylor@diosteub.org. He can be reached via telephone at (740) 282-3631.