On the Feast of St. Benedict, Celebrate Young Catholic Artists!

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A staged reading by Leah Libresco Sargeant and Alexi Sargeant of a new prize-winning ten-minute radio play by Christine Sloan Stoddard

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Celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict July 11, 5:30 pm PACIFIC, 8:30 pm EASTERN!

How could the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship let the Feast of St. Benedict slip by without celebrating? Pope Benedict took his name from this great saint, the father of Western monasticism, the patron saint of Europe--and (less well-known) of those who suffer from infectious diseases!

We have a great event planned that includes our poet-in-residence James Matthew Wilson reading of a 6th century poem by St. Benedict's disciple, Mark of Monte Cassino (in English translation)--and I know you will love this: Chanting the rarely heard Litany to St. Benedict together, with a new chant composition by our own Father Samuel Weber! The spectacular Rebekah Wu will lead us in chant once again!

Join Archbishop Cordileone and Four Amazing Young Catholics to honor St. Benedict's Feast Day.

In the middle of a Pandemic, with the lives of theater artists upended in New York, the founder of The Merry Beggars, Peter Atkinson had an idea: “When the Coronavirus hit the United States in January, no one could have expected how our lives would be upended. Now, as we face a strange new situation, we rediscover the things we used to take for granted: our families, our jobs. The meaning of our work. Our politics. Our faith.”

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, my Dad used to say. (And Dad was a Depression baby.)

So as New York hunkered down, Peter and The Merry Beggars launched a new initiative: The Quarantine Plays, challenging writers to submit a 10-minute radio script on the theme of “Quarantine.”

The Benedict XVI Institute partnered with The Merry Beggars, committing to a staged reading of the winning work via Zoom. More than 120 writers submitted entirely original works, from tearful tragedies to slapstick comedies.

Drum roll, please: we have a winner!

And the winner is….

Friend Request by Christine Sloan Stoddard: Two young New Yorkers cope with isolation, trying to stay sane. But a shared memory keeps coming back up - could it be their path back home?

And July 11 is your chance to hear the very first public reading of the winning entry by an amazing young playwright, poet, and filmmaker: Christine Sloan Stoddard.

But there’s more: This new ten-minute radio play will be read by two great young Catholic writers: Alexi Sergeant and Leah Libresco Sergeant.

You will have a chance to talk with the playwright, with the actors, with Peter Atkinson who founded the Merry Beggars and to be present at the birth of a new creative endeavor.

Register to receive the Zoom link to this great event! We are asking $25 per ticket if possible for our New Works fund (to be shared with The Merry Beggars). Or if this is not prudent for you at this time, please come and share your experiences with this new work of art.

Either way, become a patron of the arts while enjoying and evening together with these fabulous young Catholics, reflecting on the things that really matter.

The Cast of Characters

Christine Sloan Stoddard (The Playwright) is a Salvadoran-American author, artist, and film/theatre-maker. She is the founder of Quail Bell Press & Productions, which recently released “Her Plumage: An Anthology of Women’s Writings from Quail Bell Magazine.” Her other books include “Heaven is a Photograph,” “Naomi and the Reckoning,” “Desert Fox By the Sea,” and “Belladonna Magic.” She is a Visible Poetry Project Filmmaker, a Table Work Press award-winning playwright, and Puffin Foundation emerging artist. She was the first-ever artist-in-residence at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in Manhattan and Brooklyn Public Library-Eastern Parkway Branch. She has also been the Artist in Residence at 1708 Gallery, the Woodlawn Plantation in Virginia, Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Maryland, and the Laberinto Projects in El Salvador. She is a graduate of The City College of New York and VCUarts.

Alexi Sargeant (First Reader) is a writer, theatre maker, and game creator. He works in Catholic ministry at Princeton University with his wife, Leah Libresco Sargeant. Alexi’s writing has appeared in First Things, The New Atlantis, The American Interest, Catholic Arts Today, and other venues.

Leah Libresco Sargeant (Second Reader) is a writer and public speaker interested in community building. She works in Catholic ministry at Princeton University with her husband, Alexi Sargeant. Her writing has appeared in First Things, FiveThirtyEight, Washington Post, and other publications. She’s the author of Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer, which tells the story of how she learned to pray, and Building the Benedict Option: A Guide to Gathering Two or Three Together in His Name.

NOTE: If we are lucky, baby Sargeant may make a surprise appearance!

Peter Atkinson (the Founder of The Merry Beggars) is an actor and entrepreneur, dedicated to creating work that heals our culture. He graduated from Ave Maria University with a degree in Classics and in 2020 received his MFA in Acting from Columbia University. He has worked with Shakespeare & Company, LAMDA, Atlantic Theater, and Roundabout Theatre Company. His writing has appeared in Roundtable, Dappled Things, The Intercollegiate Review, and First Things.

The Merry Beggars (

The Merry Beggars is the Catholic theater organization working with artists to reveal the dignity of man. When entertainment and theatre leave out man’s spiritual and moral dimension, our culture loses hope. The Merry Beggars exists because when theatre tells the truth about the human person, lives begin to heal. They sponsored and administered the Quarantine Plays contest.

About the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship (

Founded by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, the Benedict XVI Institute’s unique mission is opening the door of Beauty to God, through providing practical resources for more beautiful and reverent liturgy and by energizing a Catholic culture of the arts.

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