by Larry Pesta
I enjoy telling my story not because it's so fascinating to me. Baba's love is fascinating, but the opportunity to tell my story is really nice because I hope it will remind you of your own personal story with Meher Baba, and that's very important. Our own stories! How we each came to know Him and understand Him and love Him. If anything I say tonight reminds you of your own relationship with Baba, my deed has been done and it's nice to have a part in that. Secondly, I have a very spiritual background. Most of it, of course, is in Christianity, and I hope the things that I tell you tonight will give you some insight into Catholicism, into the Evangelical Christian world. That insight is important because Baba said he was bringing all religions together like beads on one string and that's part of the process. It's just understanding different religions, different viewpoints, different walks and different paths that brings everyone closer together. So, I enjoy doing this for those reasons mostly.
In 1958, on May 17, Meher Baba came to the United States on one of His trips here and from what I've read and from what I've been told, there were instructions sent out that no one was to meet Him when He arrived. Then on May 18, He made His way down to Myrtle Beach. He finally met guests on May 19. Charles Haynes gave me those dates just recently, and it was exciting to hear them, they are exciting because on May 18, 1958, in Buffalo, New York, when I was seven years old, I made my First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.
I was raised in a very good Catholic home. My father, at the age of eighteen, when he was in the armed forces, had a beautiful conversion experience. He was raised a Catholic himself, but Jesus became very real to him while he was doing his military duty. He met some people and some priests who were very influential in his life, and so we were raised in a very strict Catholic home. Part of being a good Catholic was to make your First Holy Communion at the age of seven. That included some very strict religious instruction given by some very strict nuns in those days with very heavy rulers! Being raised as a Catholic in the 50's was one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had. In fact, I think that was part of Baba's process in my life. It was before the Church changed and a lot of its magic will never be replaced. Not only did we go to church every Sunday, but I also went to Catholic school for grammar school.
In the second grade, we were told that seven is the age of reason. This is the time when you become spiritually accountable as a person. Someone said, "What does that mean?" I remember one of the nuns saying. "Well, if you do anything wrong before the age of seven, it's alright. But after age seven, you're in trouble, because that's when you're responsible for every action." Well, when I heard that, I went home, and figured out that I had six months left. I remember walking into the room and saying to my parents, "You know, I've decided to be a saint." My father looked at me strangely, and I explained to him that I had six months left (to play). That after age seven, I was going to be a wonderful person and that I would be a saint!
I was a very strong child and I remember that in my last six months, I would go to church and think maybe there would be a statue of me in this place one day. I had wonderful fascinations about being a saint and I'd go to church every Sunday. I was carried there as an infant in my parent's arms. I could assess my own physical growth by the height of the pew in front of me.