An April 5 BBC News report puts a new spin on the term “prison ministry.” 

It turns out some convicted criminals in the country of Georgia are getting the chance to live as Orthodox monks instead of serving out their terms in prison. The impetus for this program is to avoid prison overcrowding. The convicts participate in the life of the monastery, praying, eating and doing chores. 

“Lots of the other prisoners want to do this,” one convict told the BBC. “When I was leaving prison the others were saying, ‘I wish we could come and spend time with the monks.’ So I’m certainly happy here.” 

Perhaps time in prayer and contemplation will help reform the convicts. Still, a monastery is not just an alternative to a prison, but, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in a 2007 visit to an Austrian abbey, a “spiritual oasis” where monastics remind us of the “ultimate reason why life is worth living: God and his unfathomable love.”