On Easter Monday, Jesus came to Leanne and Matt Bowen’s home — and he stayed a few days.
“For three days, I lived right next to the Eucharist. I could feel His presence so strongly,” Leanne wrote on Instagram.
She spoke with the Register about their latest project: creating a chapel on Matt’s family’s California ranch property in the Diocese of Fresno. They are reconstructing walls and ceilings — a labor of love for Jesus. A proper floor — and pews — are needed, too.
Right now, seven or eight people can fit inside to pray. But Easter week, 20 people were inside the converted greenhouse — with more outside — during that special Mass, which was celebrated thanks to a priest friend, Father Daniel Eusterman from the Archdiocese of Denver, a traveling tabernacle — complete with a tabernacle light — and altar.
And those days with Jesus were such a blessing, gathering clergy, seminarians and neighbors all around the Eucharistic Lord.
“It was like Easter came to our house,” Leanne told the Register.
“The feeling of his presence was palpable,” Leanne explained. “I could feel his peace throughout the entire house. I would wake up knowing he desired closeness with us. We would go out in the dark to say goodnight, and the tabernacle light illuminated the whole space. He transformed us. I found myself waking up early to pray and weaving times of prayer in all day. Even after they removed the tabernacle and Our Lord, you could sense that Jesus had been there and transformed the space.”
During that Mass, she had to leave to attend to her daughter — but Jesus still came to her. “The priest had come to the edge of the chapel area and sent a seminarian in to get me so that I could receive the Eucharist,” she reflected on social media. “I wept and wept. Oh Lord, how unworthy I am to receive you under my roof. But how healing it is to be with You.”
She explained how this Mass confirmed her love of the Eucharist.
“Jesus came to me and found me. The gift of Communion is that Jesus, after all these generations, is still seeking us, longing for us and desiring union with us. Our vocations do not take us away from him. He uses our vocations to grow closer still. He is not far away, but very, very close to you. When you have moments that make you feel far from Christ, they are often the moments Jesus desires to be the closest to you. He sees you in what you are navigating. Draw closer still.”
The Bowens say this sacred effort reflects the beauty of the Eucharist and the need for prayer.
The chapel-building and praying also has had a blessed effect on Leanne’s watercolor artwork, which includes Eucharistic themes, such as in Angel’s Gaze.
“I found myself drawing and painting during and after Jesus’ visit. It was like a grace that flooded out,” she recalled, explaining that one recent piece she is working on depicts a priest holding the Eucharistic Jesus.
“Craftsmanship is a strong charism,” she added, going on to recount “the ease of creation in the presence of the Eucharist.”
A Catholic Vision
And it all began with a greenhouse and a prayerful vision.
“My husband, Matt, and I live in a small ranching community an hour from the nearest tabernacle. The desire to have a place to pray was marinating in both of our hearts for a long time. We moved houses a year into our marriage. There was a greenhouse on the new property. When we first stepped into the greenhouse, my husband instantly knew it was going to be a chapel,” Leanne explained to the Register.
“I was astonished by his vision. The space was filled to the brim with a lot of other things — packed with tools, cabinets, benches, boxes — stuff. Matt saw right to the core of the building: It was the perfect size, lighting and space for prayer. It took us two years to empty the space and reconstruct the walls. First, it needed a new exterior roof and then an interior one as well. It needed a retaining wall and a lot of intentionality. We worked slowly, around our toddlers and daily life, and advocated for it. Almost every visitor who has come over the last three years has built a part of that chapel or some of the space around it to make it functional. We knew it was the most important project we had.”
“The project has taught us that getting each other and our kids to heaven is the only thing that matters,” she added. “I want my girls to have a deep love for the Eucharist.”
And the Easter encounter with Christ has changed their morning routine, Leanne said, relating how she or Matt will start breakfast while the other takes some time for prayer in the makeshift chapel. They will ask one another: “Who’s going first?”
Having the Eucharist at their house this Easter season underscored for Leanne an eternal truth, “It’s a gift.”
She desires a prayerful space for her neighbors, too: “Most families can stop by a chapel on the way home from school or find a place to pray in their neighborhood. I wanted that so deeply for my children and community members too.”
In this time of Eucharistic Revival, she is more cognizant of fostering a greater love for the Eucharistic Jesus.
“It was beautiful to see our vision come to light,” Leanne said of those precious days with Christ at home, noting that, with Jesus’ presence, the space was “transformed in a couple minutes. His presence was so real. When he is near, everything is restored.”
She advises others to remain close to Our Lord. “When we receive the Body of Christ, he desires to make us new and remain with us forever. He transforms us into living tabernacles. We enter in as us and leave as a vessel holding Christ. He desires to know us. Go to adoration by yourself and allow your heart to unfold before him. List out what you’re worried about, your anxieties, your joys, and everything you are grateful for. As you sit before him, abandon all of those things into his divine providence and his will for your life. He desires your happiness more than you ever could. He desires goodness and peace in your motherhood, your fatherhood, your vocation, your longings, your future more than you do.”
“It was so sad when Jesus left — I’ve never been so sad,” she admitted.
The Easter blessing highlighted the need for “unity with Christ, learning how to be united with Christ as disciples.”
And when we receive the Eucharistic Jesus, we are “a physical tabernacle in our hometown. It’s a beautiful reality to make the merciful heart of Jesus known.”
‘The Lord Wants to Be With You’
Simply put, Jesus’ visit emphasized for Leanne: “The Lord wants to be with you. We saw the power of and need for the Eucharist.”
And the Bowens remain intentional about prayer time.
“It’s been very peaceful to have a place to be prayerful,” she said, “as an artist, as a mom as a spouse — we really, really need it.”
“We all need a place to pray,” she added. “Our homes are a domestic church where we spend most of our time. It is okay to have a tiny space that is yours. I have a friend who has a little nook in her walk-in closet. Another friend has a wall in her living room where she can sit with Our Lord in prayer. For many years, my domestic adoration chapel has been wherever the moon has poured its light into my room. God created beauty for man to draw close to God. Your chapel doesn’t have to be lavish or grand, but it truly may be waiting for you to transform it into a space for unity with God.”
The married couple host Bible study in town weekly — Leanne one week, Matt the next — and they arrive early so they have time to pray in adoration.
Being in the presence of Jesus “isn’t just nice – it’s efficacious grace,” Leanne said.
So they continue to work on their chapel space, in order to “create a space worthy of housing Our Lord. We have to do this; this is a worthy cause.”
The Bowens prayerfully hope to bring Jesus back to their chapel.
“We hope over time that we may be able to officially bless the space as a chapel,” Leanne said. “So far, it has only been blessed as a place of prayer. We have a deep desire to eventually have a tabernacle and host the Eucharist. We will need to discern with our bishop if it is truly something Jesus desires. Before that happens, we need to finish the space and make it suitable, and we would like to have a beautiful space of prayer either way. We want to make it a truly beautiful space for the mere chance that Jesus wants to visit us again.”