Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Maria Boulding on the last moments

In 1980, I was invited to Australia and Japan to talk to communities of men and women there who live by the same Rule. On my first night in Tokyo I woke up in the small hours with a strange, tense feeling and then the bed began to rock around. It was like the bombing of London when I was a child in the Second World War, but this was an earthquake. For the first few seconds, being inexperienced in earthquakes, I thought we were all going to die (although no one in the house bothered to get up) and I remember thinking that an act of contrition would be appropriate. But no words at all would come except “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,” so I offered that, hoping it would be acceptable even if not quite right. The first tremor passed and I had time to collect my wits before the second, so then I said a proper act of contrition. But uppermost in my mind was the thought that if I had only a few more minutes to live, I didn’t want to waste them talking to God about my sins. He knew all that, and I mainly wanted to thank him for all the love, all the joy.

Maria Boulding, OSB, a Benedictine nun at Stanbrook Abbey in England, was a scripture scholar, author and theologian. This excerpt is from “Touch of God: Eight Monastic Journeys, a book to which she contributed and edited.

In workshops, we’re sometimes asked, “What three things would you take to a deserted island?” How about this one: What prayer, poems…. do you want to utter during your last moments?

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