Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles — the largest Catholic diocese in the U.S. — celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day during a special Mass.

“The Virgin of Guadalupe is our mother,” he said of the patroness of the Americas during his homily. “She reminds us of who we are, the dearest sons and daughters of God Our Lord. And it is with her that we want to be, because she leads us to Jesus, she leads us to God.”

The annual midnight Mass took place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Dec. 12, the 491st anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego.

“Let us never forget the beautiful maternal words she addressed to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and shelter? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?’” Gomez stressed, speaking in Spanish.

The 70-year-old archbishop, the former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the Blessed Virgin Mary loves everyone as a mother.

“When we look into her eyes, we experience the love she has for each one of us, for our families, the Church, and the society in which we live,” he said. “Mary of Guadalupe opens her arms with tenderness and compassion and embraces us all with motherly love.”

He described Mary’s “beautiful mission” as bringing Jesus to each person.

“In all her apparitions, the Virgin Mary’s message has always been like that of Tepeyac: She is the mother of all humanity, the mother of every person of every race and language,” he said. “And where she is, her Son Jesus cannot be absent, offering his love and salvation.”

When she appeared on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe not only looked like a native woman but also spoke in the same language as one. She came at a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples to ask Juan Diego, a peasant who had converted to Christianity, to persuade the bishop to build a shrine in her name. When the bishop asked for a sign that the apparition was real, Juan Diego went back to Tepeyac, and Mary appeared once again. She instructed the saint to gather a bouquet of flowers even though it was winter. When he returned with the bouquet in his tilma, or cloak, the bishop fell to his knees when he saw Castilian roses and an image of Our Lady.

Mary’s life on earth provides an example for all Catholics, Gomez said, pointing to Our Lady’s visit with her relative, St. Elizabeth, while they were both pregnant.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Our Lady shows us the path to which we are called in our ordinary life,” he said. “The kingdom of God is lived and developed through the little things of our daily lives, through the little acts of love, of gentleness and friendship. Love is the path we are called to follow, love for God and love for others.”

The cathedral celebration began earlier in the afternoon with Aztec and Ballet Folklorico dancers on the cathedral’s plaza. Afterward, a relic of St. Juan Diego’s tilma in the interior chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe was venerated.

The cathedral houses the only relic of the tilma outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where the full tilma is displayed and visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

Right before Mass, the celebration continued with a special rosary and a performance by all-female guest singers, including Latin Grammy nominee Lupita Infante, who was accompanied by Mariachi Somos México.