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Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on February 6, 2020 at 12:05 PM

Homily for Br. Raphael Kozel’s funeral Mass, Feb. 4, 2020, St. Procopius Abbey

Last night, in his eulogy for Br. Raphael, Abbot Dismas spoke of when he first came to the monastery in 1995. One of his first impressions, and a lasting one, was of the brothers praying in the chapel at the end of the day. As Abbot Dismas noted, Br. Raphael also came to the monastery in 1955, and eventually he joined those brothers, praying with them in the chapel at the end of each day.

Over forty years later, in 1996 when I joined the monastery, Br. Raphael and other brothers were still praying in the chapel at the end of the day. After having gone out to do their work, they came back and ended the day with the Rosary.

There is a pattern in this that I’d like us to reflect on. It is the pattern of going forth and coming back again. Br. Raphael and the other brothers would leave the monastery in the morning to do their work and then they would come back to pray at the end of the day. They went forth for the sake of the monastery, to do work that supported it. So, quite naturally, they returned to it after their work.

Something similar has been present in a model of the family that was perhaps more popular decades ago. In the morning the husband would go forth and leave the home, but at the end of the day he’d come back to the family for whom he was working.

Not long ago, in the reading we do during supper, we read from an article that talked about masculinity. Encouraged by Pope Francis to do so, the article explored what true masculinity looks like. While women have their innate strengths and abilities, so too do men. What are the traits that are typically masculine?

The article said that one trait is externality – or we might say, outwardness. Men tend to be outward – to look beyond themselves and strive for a goal out there. In turn, they like to go forth; they like to leave the home.

The question is: Will they come back? It’s not always guaranteed. Here’s what I mean. Increasingly in our culture, men do not come back. They father a child, but do not stay to be a father to that child. Over 40% of children in our country are born out of wedlock. So, for those children the father is not at home; he does not regularly come back.

Interestingly, there is also the opposite problem. Men don’t leave the home, but stay in their parents’ house for a long time. To be sure, there can be legitimate reasons to stay home. But some reasons are not legitimate, such as not having the initiative to look for work or wanting to spend most of the day inside playing video games.

So, some men don’t leave home while some don’t return to it. We are not fathers of families at the monastery, but this pattern of going forth and coming back is also applicable to our way of life. We go forth to do our work and to address issues that need addressing. But we also come back to our monastic home, especially to our prayers in common. Indeed, we have monks that struggle with one or the other of the two movements. That is, some are good at going forth but not so strong at coming back. Others are comfortable being at home, but could do better at going forth and tackling the challenges before them. We’re human and we struggle with these movements at times. But even in the monastery this dynamic of going forth and coming back is important. We find in Br. Raphael’s life a witness to both movements.

While outwardness is said to characterize masculinity, it is sometimes said that inwardness characterizes the feminine. Women are gifted with an attentiveness to what is inside, as it were. They are famous for an intuition of what is going on within – in a person or in a community. Women of course know about the world out there, but women also tend to appreciate the world that is close to home.

Speaking about the complementarity between men and women is not always popular these days. And to be sure, these traits can be taken in an oversimplified way. The traits are not limits to how a man or a woman can act. Men can be inward in a good way and women can be outward in a good way. These traits are aptitudes, that is, innate tendencies, that men or women have. They are not limiting, but enabling.

Also, both movements – the outward and the inward – are found in men and women. Whether male or female, we’re all called to go forth and meet challenges as well as to come back and return to our home. Going forth and coming back are part of human life, whether one is male or female.

I say all this to apply it to our quest for heaven. Heaven has been described both in masculine and in feminine terms. In masculine terms, it has been described as the “fatherland.” Also, in the Bible people speak of going to the afterlife as going to rest with their fathers. Spoken of in such ways, heaven is a place out there, a distant destination, one that you strive after and struggle to get into. We strive to take our place, and to be found worthy to take our place, with our fathers in the faith.

In feminine terms, heaven is not out there, but our home – our heavenly homeland. Sometimes it is described as the city Jerusalem, which itself is described as our mother. So, our journey to heaven is also a returning home. Indeed, it is a return to God. And there in heaven Mary our mother holds a central place.

I think of a story that the Dominicans like to tell. It goes like this. St. Dominic is in heaven, but he is distressed that he sees no other Dominicans there. But someone points him to the Blessed Virgin and, when she opens her mantle, there are a host of Dominicans in the mantle of Mary. I know that the Cistercians tell a similar story and whoever had the story first doesn’t matter. I mention it because being in Mary’s mantle is a nice, maternal, that is, a feminine, image of heaven.

I would suggest that our journey to heaven requires both movements, the outward and the inward. They are part of everyone’s life and, so, why shouldn’t they be part of everyone’s journey to eternal life? Also note that knowing and loving are crucial for our journey to heaven. Yet love draws us outward, while knowledge is something that we take in to ourselves. Then again, think of the Eucharist, which is a foretaste of heaven. The Eucharist has both movements. It is the source and summit of the Christian life. As source, we go forth from it. As summit, we come back to it – each time ascending higher, getting closer to heaven.

We can think of such things, when we think of Br. Raphael’s life – when we think of how he went forth to work with his fellow brothers and of how he came back at the end of the day to Mary in the Rosary. We are all called to these two movements, as part of our journey to heaven.

But there is a way for men to live this out, so as to get to heaven. If I may use the term “real men,” it might be put this way. Be a real man by going forth and working for your home, your community. And be a real man by coming back again.

The Mass is the greatest prayer the Church has and we are praying this Mass for the repose of Br. Raphael’s soul. May our prayer be this: that Br. Raphael now enjoy the company of the men who labored before him, and that standing side by side with them, he now enjoy being in the mantle of Mary.


Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on January 30, 2020 at 2:40 PM

The eldest member of our community and the last to have entered the monastery as a lay brother, Brother Raphael Kozel, died at St. Patrick's Residence, Naperville, IL, on the morning of January 29, 2020. Born into a large farming family in LaGrange, Texas, on June 26, 1925, Wenceslaus Kozel knew of St. Procopius Abbey from his early years, both through the publications of the Bohemian Benedictine Press and through the fact that his mother’s brother, Father Charles Kolek, was a member of the monastery. Suffering from serious vision problems that would trouble him throughout his life, the young man only advanced so far as sixth grade in the local schools before it was decided to send him to a school for the blind in Austin, where he spent two years. Wenceslaus then returned to work on the family farm. In 1950, he took up the profession of steeplejack, helping to build radio towers. By that time, his sister Annie had become a member of the Missionary Oblates of St. Scholastica in Lisle, and in 1951 she invited him to spend his vacation there. He would throughout the rest of his life quip, “And I’m still on vacation!”, for he never returned to his former occupation. Instead he was hired by Father Richard Shonka, the procurator of St. Procopius Abbey, to work in first the powerhouse and then the garage. Coming into contact with the lay brothers, he made application to join the monastic community, taking vows under the name of Brother Raphael on December 8, 1955. For a number of years, he was in charge of a large garden that supplied produce for the cannery operation run by Brother Anthony Hubka. From 1964-1967, Brother Raphael took part in an effort to establish a semi-contemplative monastery in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Returning to St. Procopius, he was then assigned to the Bohemian Benedictine Press in Chicago, where, along with Brother Peter Pavlinak, he did much to keep the machinery operating during the Press’ final years. Brother Raphael was in 1976 placed in charge of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning at Benet Academy. Notwithstanding his near blindness, for close to three decades “Brother Red” was involved at the school, even learning how to program various HVAC operations on the computer. Ever more unsteady on his feet as he passed his eightieth birthday, it finally became necessary to remove him from the work at Benet, but he continued to contribute to the good of the community through his cheerfulness, his devotion to common exercises, and his assistance wherever possible. In 2016, decreasing mobility led to his admission to St. Patrick's Residence, where he spent his final years. Please remember Brother Raphael in your prayers.

Abbot Austin and Community

St. Procopius Abbey

Lisle, IL


Dr. Christine Fletcher receives the 2019 Kucera Catholic Leadership Award

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on December 9, 2019 at 10:45 PM

On December 3, 2019, Dr. Christine Fletcher received the 6th annual Kucera Catholic Leadership Award. The Kucera Catholic Leadership Award is given to individuals in our region who have demonstrated leadership in the Catholic Church by extraordinarily serving others as people in whom Christ is received. Dr. Fletcher teaches theology at Benedictine University. As well as an educator and author, Dr. Fletcher (with her husband, Dr. Peter Fletcher) are oblates of the Abbey, and she has been one of the speakers at Advent at the Abbey and Lent at the Abbey for some years now. Congratulations from all the monks!

Students from Benedictine University visit the Abbey

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on October 4, 2019 at 5:25 PM

As part of their BenB Common Time class, students from Benedictine University toured St. Procopius Abbey to gain insight on Benedictine spirituality and monastic life. Students met with monks for presentations on communal prayer, personal prayer, history of the Benedictine monks, monastic life, and an overview video of St. Procopius Abbey which can be found on the HOME page of our website. We thank the faculty of Benedictine University for arranging this impactful experience.

REV. EDWARD J. KUCERA, O.S.B., April 28, 1927 - September 21, 2019

Posted by Abbot Austin on September 21, 2019 at 11:30 AM

Our confrere, Father Edward Kucera, the last member of our community to have entered under the patriarchal Abbot Procopius Neuzil, died of kidney failure at St. Patrick's Residence, Naperville, IL, on the morning of Saturday, September 21. Born in Chicago on April 28, 1927, Joseph Kucera had two older brothers in Lisle when he arrived in 1941 as a high school freshman: the future Father Mathias, and the future Abbot and Archbishop Daniel. After completing one year of college, he followed their good example and applied to join the monastic community. Following his profession on June 16, 1947, Father Edward soon began a career in the classroom that lasted until 1962, teaching such subjects as history, religion, science, and mechanical drawing. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Martin McNamara in St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral, Joliet, on May 30, 1953. From 1955-1961, Father Edward served as athletic director of St. Procopius Academy, and he was one of those who oversaw the school’s transfer to its new campus in 1956. He obtained his master’s degree in history from DePaul University in 1961. In 1962 Father Edward began twenty years as a much-respected chaplain with the Air Force. During that time, he served at locations in Louisiana, Labrador, Texas, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Colorado. Receiving a number of decorations for his work and rising to the rank of Colonel, he left military service in 1982 and accepted the role as chaplain at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. Early in 1984, he returned to Lisle as pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish, but some health issues required him to relinquish that position the following year. Father Edward resumed his pastoral work in Colorado, where, apart from some time with the Benedictine Chinese Mission in Taiwan from 1990-1991, he kept busy until 2008 helping in hospitals and parishes, as well as with the World Youth Day that took place in Denver in 1993. He also much enjoyed serving as a chaplain on cruises to various parts of the world. Still vigorous at the age of eighty-one, he was assigned to assist with campus ministry at Benet Academy when he came back to Lisle in 2008, and for the next nine years he was an admired figure on campus as he sought to encourage frequent reception of the Sacraments. Decreased mobility led him to take up residence at Villa St. Benedict in the fall of 2017. There he remained an active presence until his health declined seriously in the course of 2019. Please remember Father Edward in your prayers.

Abbot Austin and Community

St. Procopius Abbey

Lisle, Illinois

St. Mark's Parish in Wheaton, IL, honors Fr. Anthony Jacob

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on May 6, 2019 at 8:10 PM

St. Mark's Parish in Wheaton, IL, held a reception on May 5th  in honor of our Fr. Anthony, who recently retired from offering weekend assistance there after 32 years of doing so. Fr. Anthony preached at the Mass before the reception. He spoke of the blessings that Christ left us with, especially the gift of His mother. Our thanks to St. Mark's Parish for the lovely celebration for Fr. Anthony. Fr. Anthony's sermon from the Mass on May 5th is listed below the photos.

(Sermon from Fr. Anthony Jacob on May 5, 2019, St. Mark's Parish)

O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to Thee. [This prayer was always at the beginning for planning any parish homily or sermon for all 32 years.]

Sermon Summary


For my last time speaking here at St. Mark, I will not speak on any of the 3 Sunday readings but on an inheritance we all share – priests and people. It’s not an inheritance that will pay down a mortgage or help pay a college tuition for a son or daughter. It’s even more valuable than that kind of gift. We have a share in a last will and testament, all of us.

As Our Lord suffered while He was dying on the cross, He spoke seven times. Each of these seven is by tradition called a “word” even though each may be a sentence or more in length. All seven are termed Christ’s Seven Last Words (The Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen spoke on them for many years.). Although all of Our Lord’s gifts to us can be seen as Our inheritance, His last words constitute a poignant Last Will and Testament. The Third Last Word will be for our reflection today.

Our Lord spoke this way in His Third Word: “Woman behold your son – Son, behold your Mother”. It’s easy to say Jesus was providing for the care of His Mother before He left this earth. The “Beloved Disciple”, too, would, have the prayers, the concern, and the wisdom of Blessed Mary. This is far, far from the depth of the full meaning.

As the Venerable Bishop Sheen reminds us the understanding of the meaning starts back in the book of Genesis. The woman there called “mother of all the living” really lost the title in the full sense. Mary through her suffering at the foot of the cross regained it as Mother of all the Living in the new regenerated race gained by Her Son.

Behind the name John of the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross was my name and your name, and millions of names of those that would come down in time from Cavalry's hill to our own day, and would continue until the last trumpet blast. We have a Mother who can call us by name, and loves us more than we love ourselves.

We should call upon her every day. We should especially call upon her in difficult times. St. Bernard who loved Mary with all his heart saw her as the guiding star of a ship at sea. In one of his homilies he urges us to do this: “ – do not turn your eyes away from this shining star, unless you want to be overwhelmed by the hurricane. If temptation storms, or you fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star: Call upon Mary! - If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of your soul, turn your eyes to Mary.”

Let us always call upon Mary, Our Mother.


Anniversary of Dorothy Day becoming a Benedictine Oblate at St. Procopius Abbey.

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on April 26, 2019 at 12:50 PM

On April 26, 1955, Dorothy Day became a Benedictine Oblate of St. Procopius Abbey. Her cause of canonization is being promoted by the Archdiocese of New York. View our website page on Dorothy Day for more information about this remarkable servant of God.

Oblates of St. Benedict are Christians who associate themselves with a Benedictine community in order to enrich their Christian way of life. This spiritual affiliation is formalized through a promise made to live out the spiritual values reflected in the Rule of St. Benedict in so far as the individual's state in life permits. See our website page Oblates for more details, and access the website of the Oblates of St. Benedict affiliated with St. Procopius Abbey, at oblate.webs.com.

Our monastic community prays this prayer every Wednesday before dinner: O God, may the Church recognize the holiness of Dorothy Day, Servant of God and Benedictine Oblate of St. Procopius Abbey, especially in her dedication to the liturgy, * her desire for the justice of God’s Kingdom, * and her devotion to the poor as persons in whom Christ is welcomed. * Amen.

Palm Sunday - juxtaposition of winter and spring

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on April 14, 2019 at 2:50 PM

From Abbot Austin's Facebook post on Palm Sunday, April 14th: 

Happy Palm Sunday! We're having a snowy one here. You can see the snow draping the green buds in this photo, if you look closely. This juxtaposition of winter and spring reminds me of the words in the Paschal Sequence, “Death and life contended” -- and the victory went to life!

Coach Andy Marchese honored at Benet Academy

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on April 12, 2019 at 2:30 PM

On April 12th, Benet Academy surprised Coach Andy Marchese with a welcome reception in St. Daniel Hall. The 96-year-old Benet Legend served as Benet’s Band Director for many years. 

Retired as well as current Benet Faculty and Staff attended the reception. In addition to connecting with former colleagues, Coach Marchase was able to hear performances from the Concert Chorale, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra. Coach Marchese then directed the Ensemble and Orchestra in the Alma Mater and Fight Song, both of which he composed when he served as Benet’s Band Director, and treated the group to a trumpet performance!

Amidst a wide-ranging musical career, Coach Marchese has been connected with Benet Academy for over sixty years. Looking for a job, he happened to show up in the office of then St.Procopius Academy Principal, Father Thomas Havlik, just after a graduation during which the band's playing collapsed in the midst of the national anthem. Coach Marchese was hired on the spot, and he's been one of the Academy's treasures ever since.

Living a balanced life - Benedictine balance

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on January 8, 2019 at 10:15 PM

As part of the resources shared at this year's SEEK2019 event, Abbot Austin and Fr. James offered insights on Benedictine balance and living a balanced life. The two pictures below offer examples of reflections shared. The full resources can be found on our website's Benedictine Balance page.


To build on the theme of living a balanced life, attendees enjoyed the Jenga game at our booth. It was a fun way to emphasize the importance of balance.

Finally, to share our Benedictine balance resources digitally, we held an Instagram contest, Participation was great and the winner, pictured below, received an Amazon gift card. We are very pleased that many students are now accessing Benedictine resources through Abbot Austin's Instagram @abbotaustin as well as on Facebook and YouTube. See our website Home page for links to all of the St. Procopius Abbey social media sites.