Mary Boulding (she adopted the name Maria after entering Stanbrook) was born in Wimbledon in south London in 1929, one of six children. Her father, Reginald Boulding, was a pioneer of radar and a convert to Catholicism. Deciding at 16 that she wanted to be a nun, she turned down a scholarship for Oxford University to enter Stanbrook in September 1947. After taking her final vows of profession in April 1952, she became, to use her own description, "intellectually frustrated, stagnant, unhappy," and began to wish she had delayed her vocation until later.
She was rescued by the recently elected Abbess Elizabeth Sumner who, recognizing her abilities, channeled her into theology. After that she never looked back. She gained a diploma in theology and in 1974 became a Bachelor of Divinity. Meanwhile she was novice mistress from 1965-74, then twice sub-prioress, from 1974-78 and again from 2006-08. She was twice a member of the Abbess's council, and Prioress (second in command to the abbess) from 2008 until her death in November 2009. For some years she was also the librarian.
After the Second Vatican Council, in the 1960s, Boulding became a firm supporter of renewal and openness in the Church. In 1985 she obtained permission from the abbess to become a hermit – a state of life only granted to nuns or monks considered to be sufficiently mature in their monastic vows. She remained a hermit until 2004 and it was during these years that she became best known for her writing and translations.
Maria Boulding spent 62 of her 80 years as a much-valued member of Stanbrook Abbey, a community of enclosed Benedictine nuns. Her realization, early in her monastic life, that she had a gift for theology and for writing brought her into contact with leading theologians and prelates. She translated St Augustine's Confessions (1997) and his Expositions of the Psalms in several volumes (2000-2004), to much acclaim.