Beyond boxed chocolates and Valentine cards, authentic married love is a gift and blessing that brings unity to society, and it deserves support and protection, said a New York bishop.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, who heads the U.S. bishops' committee on marriage and family life, called on his fellow bishops "to celebrate the gift and blessing of marriage and to affirm and support engaged and married couples."

Valentine's Day marks the conclusion of National Marriage Week, which runs Feb. 7-14. The week has been celebrated in the U.S. for the past six years in a collaborative effort to encourage couples and uphold marriage as a benefit to both society and family life.

At the same time, World Marriage Day – which is sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter and celebrated Feb. 8 – is now in its thirty-third year and received the Apostolic Blessing of Pope St. John Paul II in 1993.

In a letter marking National Marriage Week and World Marriage Day, Bishop Malone reflected on the state of marriage in the U.S.

"Marriage and the family face many challenges in our contemporary society," he said. "The declining numbers of marriages in the Church is a concern to our Committee, as are the effects that pornography use has on marriages and families."

He also pointed to continued efforts to redefine marriage as a grave concern to the institution of marriage between a baptized man and woman.

Even with these ongoing challenges, Bishop Malone offered words of encouragement, applauding work to value marriage and strengthen it.

"We are especially thankful for the many good efforts that continue in dioceses and parishes to promote, strengthen and defend marriage, and to accompany marriages and families in their joys and difficulties," he said.

The bishop pointed to upcoming opportunities to proclaim the Gospel more clearly.

"In particular, we eagerly anticipate the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia from September 22-27, 2015. We also look forward to the Ordinary Synod on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world, to be held in Rome October 2015," he stated, adding that these events are a chance to help fortify marriages, families, and society.

Bishop Malone went on to highlight various resources for priests and married couples, including videos, bulletin inserts, and printed materials, as well as a preaching resource for the clergy. These tools, he said, emphasize the importance of marriage as a vocation, stressing the goodness of marriage and the many gifts it offers to both children and society.

"We hope this will encourage and assist your priests and deacons in preaching about marriage and the family," he said.

Bishop Malone also called for prayer and sacrifice for an increased reverence toward marriage and family life.

He urged his fellow bishops "to affirm ever more deeply the gift of marriage and family life and may the Lord continue to bless all that you do in witness to the beauty and gift of marriage and the family."