Tag Archives: Holy Trinity Church

“Satan was as fit as I”: The Easter week conversion of Charles Simeon


In my dissolute youth, Holy Week was a time of particularly acute conviction. Now, it has become a time of joy. But thinking back to those misspent teen years, I’m reminded of the conversion story of Charles Simeon, the 19th-century fellow of Cambridge (King’s College) and rector of Holy Trinity Church. Simeon was also young, just 21, and his conversion came during a similarly acute Holy-Week season of conviction, triggered by a summons to his first communion service at Cambridge. I tell the story in my Patron Saints for Postmoderns:

Satan Was as Fit as I

As for Simeon himself, nothing in his upbringing had instilled any real
faith in him by that tender age of twenty-one. Nonetheless, when he
received the official summons to his first communion service on a cold
winter day, three days after arriving at Cambridge, he entered “a state
of spiritual panic.” Looking within himself, he concluded that “Satan
himself was as fit to attend [the sacrament] as I.” He bought a stern
book titled The Whole Duty of Man, because it was the only religious
book he had heard of, and under its prescriptions he proceeded to
read, fast and pray himself into physical illness. For all that effort, he
still went to his first communion unrelieved from his acute sense of
unworthiness and fear.

Nor did his struggle end there, for he knew he must receive the sacrament
again on Easter Sunday. Continue reading