Roisin Carty offered a different way to look at Thomas Merton as she delivered the 2019 Thomas Merton Lecture at Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan Oct. 21.
The dialect coach played a 40-second clip of Merton and followed up with a discussion of how he used his American and British accents in the clip.
“I think his accent is a mixture of English and American based on his background,” she told the 75 people in the church. “It’s also an accent that’s really of its time because when I’m teaching accents, it’s not just the individual styles, that conversation between you and I now, it’s also what’s changed over time. So an accent from the 1960s, whether it’s American or British, will be different to a modern American or British accent.”
Ms. Carty, who served as a dialect coach for various films such as the series of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies, said Merton’s pronunciation of the letters ‘r’ and ‘t’ in the clip were American, and the way he spoke words like society and capacity was British. Merton, she said, reminded her of English-born, American actor Cary Grant “in the way he mixes his words.”
Merton was born in France and educated in England before entering Columbia University in 1935. In September 1938, he attended a Mass at Corpus Christi and was baptized into the Catholic Church two months later, also at Corpus Christi.
Merton earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia and taught at St. Bonaventure in upstate Olean before living as Father Louis at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky., from 1941 until his death in 1968.
The Thomas Merton Lecture, presented by Columbia Catholic Ministry and the Hugh J. and Catherine R. Kelly Endowment for the Thomas Merton Lecture at Columbia University, was established in 1978 on the 10th anniversary of Merton’s death.
“It was designed to honor Merton’s intellectual curiosity—he writes on subjects from theology and prayer to social justice and technology,” Father Daniel O’Reilly, pastor of Corpus Christi and director of Columbia Catholic Ministry, told CNY.
“Our speakers have been equally eclectic, from bishops and authors to religious and astronauts.
Father O’Reilly and Ms. Carty are second cousins.
“The idea of inviting Roisin Carty came to mind when I read a biography which said (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author J.R.R.) Tolkien held the ‘Merton Professorship of English’ at the University of Oxford, where Thomas Merton studied for a time. The name is purely coincidence, but exploring some aspect of the two writers seemed appropriate.”
Merton was a writer and poet, on spirituality, peace and war, and social justice and injustice.
“I like the contradictions in him, too, in the sense of going not only to be a monk but to a place where you couldn’t speak,” said Joseph Masheck, 77, a parishioner of Corpus Christi who taught at Columbia.
“He’s trying to address what’s wrong with the world and he goes to a place where you can’t speak. Instead, he writes, and the writing becomes very important. In that sense, I think his writings that have to do with peace and justice are more important than, for example, his poetry.”
Jason Gill was one of the many Columbia University students attending the lecture.
“I came to the lecture last year and it was a lot of fun and interesting,” Gill said. “I’m always just trying to expand my spiritual horizons. This seemed like a great opportunity to do so.”