Thank You Grace L. Tangen

I left school and first started working professionally as a computer programmer in February of 1980.  It quickly dawned on me that the “world of work” was much easier than being in school. Thus I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands.  In addition to my day job as a contract programmer, I took on a part-time teaching job, (computer programming two nights a week,) for the Sioux Falls Community College.  Even then I still found myself with plenty of time on my hands.  So I began to attend daily Mass and bought myself a copy of the Douay-Rheims Bible and spent considerable time reading it on a regular basis.

Being in my early 20’s, I was restless and after just one year in Sioux Falls I was ready to move on to something new.  A friend of mine from Austin, MN offered me a position with his company.  So off I went to provide some programming expertise for his new computer consulting firm.  That job lasted only nine months before financial and personal reasons forced me to quit.  Nevertheless I learned many valuable lessons in Austin.  I’ve often looked back at that time as one of the most interesting episodes of my life.

I’m not sure if it was in Sioux Falls or Austin when I first started to receive some mysterious packages.   These were religious books that I’d receive in the mail every few months or so during the early 1980’s.  All of these books were written by St. Alphonsus Liguori.  The books I remember having received include:  The Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Glories of Mary, Victories of the Martyrs, as well as a small booklet covering Eucharistic Adoration.

Other than the book and the mailer it came in, I don’t recall there being any other information save for the small handwritten return address on the mailer itself.  What was especially amazing to me was how these books ever “found me”.   During the early 1980’s it was not unusual for me to move every few months or so.  In fact, from January 1981 thru January 1982, I moved 5 times.   All the while I kept receiving these books even though some of my moves took me hundreds of miles away. 

Over time I somehow ascertained that these books came from the mother of a priest known as Father Ronald Tangen.  From what I could tell of the return address Father Tangen and his mother were from the same area of South Dakota where I grew up.  Possibly from the town of Aurora which was about 4 miles east of my own residence. 

I once asked my Mother if she knew anything about this Father Tangen.  According to my Mom, early in the 1960’s my Dad did a stint teaching catechism at our local parish.   The “Tangen kid” was notorious for being one of the wildest kids in class and was a “real headache” in my Dad’s efforts in keeping the class in order.  (I find it amusing that this “wild and crazy kid” ended up becoming a Catholic Priest.)  I’ve often wondered if Mrs. Tangen felt grateful that one her sons became a priest and perhaps sent me those books as a sort of “thank you” for any positive influence my Dad may have had on her wild son.  Or perhaps she just felt guilty about her crazy boy causing so much trouble and wanted to make it up to our family somehow. 

Though I never sent a “thank you” back to Mrs. Tangen, I did read all the books I received from her. Looking back, I’m glad I read those books when I did.  For I learned some key spiritual truths, early in life, that I continued to reflect on and practice over the years.     

These truths include:

1. The value of the Catholic Mass  
It is the “ultimate prayer” with one Mass worth more than thousands of “Hail Marys”. 

2. A much better appreciation for Jesus’ supreme sacrifice.
His suffering was immense.  He gave his all in redeeming mankind. 

3. A love for Eucharistic Adoration
The graces and blessing available by practicing this devotion are many and bring joy to the Lord who cries out for all to come and visit him.  

4. The folly of how so many people waste their time.
So many people fail to take the opportunity to pray when they have some idle time on their hands.  They are missing out on a great opportunity to grow in grace.  

5. Redemptive Suffering
Our pains and sufferings can be united with what Jesus suffered during his earthly life for the salvation of souls.

These books have been very fundamental in improving my spiritual life.  I credit these books for encouraging me to frequently attend daily Mass and to visit Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.   Whenever I undergo a serious sickness or suffer pain for an injury, I “offer it up” to the Lord in union with his sufferings for the salvation of souls.  As I get older, I find myself more and more striving to pray whenever the opportunity arises and doing all I can to purge idle thoughts out of my mind so I can focus more on loving the Lord, praying for the salvation of all.

Unlike the 1980’s, nowadays with the internet readily available, we can quickly do research on a myriad of topics.  Recently I decided to find out more about this mysterious benefactor that sent me all these great books.  After a quick Google search I quickly had my answer.  Her name is Grace L. Tangen.  She died on February 25, 2014 at the age of 93 in my hometown of Brookings, SD.  According to her obituary, she was involved in two different organizations that distributed over 1.5 million books on Jesus and Mary.

Thank you Grace Tangen for being the person you were.  Thank you for sending me those inspirational books that “boosted my faith” at a very important time in my life.  May God bless you and keep you!


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(This article was first posted on October 18, 2017)