CHAPTER XXIII EXCELLENCE OF DEVOTION TO MARY
"After careful examination, neither as adversary nor as friend, of the influences of Catholicism, I am persuaded that the worship of the Madonna has been one of its noblest and most vital graces, and has never been otherwise than productive of holiness of lift and purity of character.'" — JOHN RUSKIN.
To realise at all adequately some of the benefits which devotion to the Holy Mother of God have conferred upon the world, it is necessary to have lived in the East. For anyone who has been brought up in Europe and finds himself dwelling, even for a short period, in Mahommedan lands, the degradation of women that will force itself on his notice is horrible beyond words. Were it not visible before his eyes, a naked incontrovertible fact, it would be unimaginable and therefore unthinkable. The Mussulman frankly looks upon women as beings of another order from himself. With rare exceptions, all education is denied them. Reasonable converse with their masters is thus rendered impossible. To all intents and purposes they are slaves without rights of any sort, liable, for example, to be divorced and cast out of the house on the flimsiest of pretexts. If Mahommedan women of royal rank are given some measure of education, and even allowed to enter and pray in the mosques, from which all other women are rigorously excluded, this is only a cynical inconsistency. It is taught, openly and shamelessly, that women are without souls—in this resembling the beasts of burden whose labours they are often compelled to share. It is taken for granted that woman was created merely to minister to the passions of man—to be generally at his disposal and to do his pleasure.
What Europe would be at this hour, if for long centuries wives had been permitted no direction over their husbands' lives, nor any moulding of their children's characters, if the friendship of women had been deemed worthless, and the influence of women had been non-existent—that the Mahommedan world is at this hour, and that it must remain—hard, soulless, sensual, radically barbarous, alien to our habits of thought, abhorrent to our sentiment, until woman be granted by the Moslem her rightful position in human society.
All that is best and noblest—nay, all that is decent— in Christian Europe men owe under God to the place that by common consent is allotted to woman and to her gracious presence, loved and honoured, in our midst. In all things that are essential to humanity, woman is man's equal, in many of her endowments she is man's superior—a fact that no man worthy of the name of man for one moment will deny. Were women in lands that are still Christian to be relegated to the position they occupy in lands that are still Mussulman, man's state in Europe would soon be as evil as in regions that are cursed by the presence of the baneful Turk—Christianity would vanish from our midst, and with Christianity would go all that makes life tolerable.