The date was August 5th. The year was 358 AD.
Today I attended Solemn Pontifical Vespers in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to commemorate the feast of Our Lady of the Snows, standing between two rows of monolithic marble columns, surrounded by 5th century mosaics, under a gilded 15th century ceiling displaying the first gold brought back to Europe after Columbus' voyage and donated by Ferdinand and Isabella the the Spanish Pope Alessandro VI Borgia.
The Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar assigns this day to the Dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Legend has it that Mary herself indicated in a dream to Pope Liberius (352-366) where her great church was to be built. She confirmed this by having snow fall on the site even though it was August.
Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston and now rector of this basilica, presided over the service. During the vespers I prayed for the victims of clergy sex abuse, especially those who suffered during the time Cardinal Law was archbishop of Boston.
The climax of the vesper service was a cascade of white rose petals from the ceiling during the singing of the Magnificat.
As I left the basilica workers were in the piazza below this column getting ready for an evening sound-and-light show that will include snow.