Will Power
By Louise Brass, Observer Correspondent
November 1, 2018
CHICAGO—When the fullness of the Catholic faith comes under attack from within or from outside of the Church it takes the will to survive and plenty of grace to make things better, some historians say.
In the era of the Tudors in England, the crypto-Catholicism of William Shakespeare may have helped many Catholics avoid being hanged for their beliefs and encouraged them in their sufferings, historian and author Lady Clare Asquith says.
She maintains that within the world-famous plays of Shakespeare, and in his poems, are themes of resistance to the efforts to quash Catholicism. 
Catholic Citizens of Illinois net prominent speakers
The Catholic Citizens of Illinois holds regular lunches and dinners featuring prominent Catholic speakers, said Mary Anne Hackett, president of the organization.
On Oct. 22, the CCI invited Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield to give an address called “Living the Catholic Life in this Current Crisis.” The annual banquet was held at The Carlisle in Lombard.
 “There had been other scandals over the 2,000 years of the Catholic Church, but the barque of Peter has been righted. Now is not the time to abandon our faith; now is the time for soldiers of Christ to defend the Church. All those confirmed in the Church must answer the call,” wrote Hackett in a recent publication of the La Grange-based organization.
“Sometimes there is a tendency to think we must just walk away, but the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ,” Hackett said.
Kathy Michelotti of St. Charles said she enjoys hearing the speakers’ presentations when the CCI events are held in Lombard, usually at The Carlisle. 
“They just bring in some really interesting speakers, and they have a nice gathering of people.” Michelotti and her husband, Leo, attend St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles.
In December, a filmmaker involved in the movie “The Dating Project” will be the speaker. In March 2019, author Paul Kengor is scheduled to make a presentation. (See https://catholiccitizens.org/)
Last September, CCI invited Nick Adams, originally from Australia, to be the featured speaker. He is the founder of the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness. At age 21 he was elected as the youngest deputy mayor of Sydney. He now lives with his family in the United States.
— Louise Brass
The “secret messages” in his writings also explain why some parts of his plays don’t seem to fit with the storylines, she said. 
Lady Asquith refers to his poems, “Venus and Adonis” and “Rape of Lucrece,” which, she said, can be interpreted to support her contention.
Lady Clare, the Countess of Oxford and Asquith, has studied extensively the life of the poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. She spoke about that troubled era at a recent Catholic Citizens of Illinois luncheon at the Union League Club, sharing her extensive knowledge of the state of the faith in 17th century Europe. 
The trouble began when Henry VIII (1491-1547), who was at one time called a “defender of the faith,” wanted to marry someone else while his first wife still lived. When his annulment request was denied, he declared himself head of the Church in England in place of the pope. Those who disagreed were often hanged, drawn through the streets of London and quartered, according to historians. 
In fact, things became so dire by 1605 that one man, Guy Fawkes — remembered every Nov. 5 in England — tried but failed to blow up Henry VIII’s Reformation Parliament, Asquith said. Some historians, however, say Fawkes was in fact in league with Spain against England. He was captured and executed.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare was writing poems with carefully disguised hints of his devotion to the Church, especially the holy Eucharist, and expressed his concern for those suffering for the faith. 
He often sent his works to the Earl of Southampton, who may have disseminated the writings to other believers, according to Asquith.
The messages were not discovered by critics, Asquith believes, because they were embedded in a way to seem innocuous to the readers of that time.
Asquith has traced her own English ancestry back to Tudor times. Her great grandfather, H.H. Asquith, was prime minister of Great Britain during the First World War. After that war, the family became Roman Catholics, she said.
In Tudor times, Catholics had to hold the liturgy secretly in homes, and the priests who came to celebrate Mass had to hide in holes in the walls if the King’s men came calling at an “inconvenient” time. Those old houses can still be seen today.
St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were martyred during that time period when they refused to deny elements of the faith, she said. More is author of the book “Utopia.” Fisher’s writings include, “Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics.”
But the Catholic faith did live on in the hearts of thousands of citizens despite being heavily fined and having their lands confiscated if they did not convert to the church approved by the state. 
Henry VIII also turned monasteries and abbeys into ruins, which still are scattered across the country, marking a stern reminder of the dangers of “state” control over religion.
Shakespeare was baptized and was buried at The Collegiate Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon, often called Shakespeare’s church. A reported 200,000 tourists visit the church each year.
It took a few centuries for the faith to be openly accepted again and for those on opposing sides of the struggle to become friends.
Asquith reiterated that today in many countries, political correctness demanded by elites seems to be shaping up to become akin to the religious correctness demanded in those ancient days and is creating hardships for faithful believers.
“When we read Shakespeare, we see an echo of our times,” she said.
Asquith has written two books on the subject, “Shakespeare and the Resistance: The Earl of Southampton, the Essex Rebellion and the Poems that Challenged Tudor Tyranny,“ and “Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.”