Irene Lape's book Leadings is an autobiographical spiritual testimonial. Through the telling of her own life story Lape hopes that she will aid others to open themselves to a transformative encounter with the "living God."
Lape was born in 1945 to parents who were committed atheists. Her early childhood, lived mainly with her maternal grandparents, involved little exposure to religion. Around the age of ten, however, Lape was baptized in the Episcopal Church at the suggestion of an aunt and began to take a strong interest in God and the Bible. During college she converted to Catholicism. Shortly thereafter she "lost her faith" and became involved in secular countercultural movements of the 1960s. It was through an encounter with Quakerism, particularly with the writings and spirituality of early Friends, that Lape eventually re-embraced her Christian faith and developed a strong spiritual foundation. Then in 1990 Lape again became a Catholic, attracted back to Catholicism by her belief in the Catholic Church's apostolic origins. Most of the book is an engaging account of this religious journey.
One important concern of Lape in her book is to share some suggestions for how Catholics and Quakers could be enriched through deeper encounter with each other's traditions. Lape suggests, for example, that Catholicism could learn from early Quakerism's emphasis on silent prayer, its universal call to personal holiness, and its stress on the immediacy of God's presence. She believes that Quakerism in turn could be enhanced through an appreciation of the importance of outward forms of liturgy and sacrament. While the cultural context in which Quakerism arose was characterized by an overemphasis on outward forms, to which Quakerism was a helpful corrective, Lape suggests that this is no longer our context. She views the central problems of our time as rather being secularism, relativism, and individualism, and expresses concern that a radical de-emphasis of outward religious forms can lead to a spiritual individualism that perpetuates these problems.
Lape's book contains many valuable insights, particularly in her thoughtful presentation of the rich spiritual resources of early Quakerism and her exploration of some dangers of our current cultural context. The main weakness of the work is its lack of attention to the social dimensions of Christianity. Lape largely ignores the central role that concern for social justice plays in the biblical tradition and in contemporary Catholicism, and downplays its importance in Quakerism. In her discussion of Catholicism no mention is made of Catholic social teaching, though this would seem to be an important area for Quaker-Catholic dialogue and cooperation.
Overall, this is a helpful book, recommended for personal reading and perhaps for courses in Christian spirituality or Quakerism.