March 19 is the Feast Day of St. Joseph, patron of families. His feast day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the family for promoting a culture of life.

Catholic social teaching is clear: "The family is the original cell of social life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2207).

"The family is the first place where we learn to become human, it is the ‘cradle of life and love'” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 209).

No family is alike. None are paradigms of perfection without the stains of conflicts, emotions and history. Today, real family life is messy – just like Jesus’ family (check out the cast of characters in his genealogy). Joseph is one of the three members of the Holy Family yet Joseph was also a stepfather. And as the foster-father of our Lord, he exemplified any parent’s priority: put family first.

Following the example of St. Joseph, parents, caregivers, communities, governments and the church are all called to put family first. "Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 85). Our future passes through the family. So protect your families! Protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments" (Pope Francis).

Dads, it is so important that your kids see you going to Mass, praying daily, visiting relatives and choosing to get involved in making your parish community better. “There are all kinds of difficulties, made worse by the complexity of a society in which … families are often left alone with their problem” (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 11). When you, like St. Joseph, choose to put family first, you witness to the gospel of life, loving our neighbor more than ourselves.

The church, through Catholic Charities of Oregon, empowers individuals and families with the tools they need to take control of their financial future. Catholic Charities’ Family Success Center sees its clients as partners and provides a variety of critical resources to families as they journey toward financial success.

There are still reasons that force families to “flee to Egypt.” “It is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies” (EV, 90).

We each have a moral responsibility to ensure the common good by supporting families. “The principle of the common good … has … to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si', 157).

The family is the seed of society that flourishes when parents, caregivers, communities, governments and the church take the time to water it.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Cato is director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace. Fr. Libra is the archdiocese’s pro-life director and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Portland.