An absence of purity destroys our peace and makes it impossible to think of anyone but ourselves. Impurity has an obsessive, addictive quality that withers our sensitivity and empathy for others.

But it's tough to keep our hearts and minds pure. We live in the world, don't we? And we're surrounded by smutty ads and tabloid scandals that reduce our holy and beautiful sexuality to something twisted and degrading. With the tragic explosion of men and women addicted to internet pornography, and the soft-porn standards of most television and film these days, true romantic love is trending downwards fast.

I look at classic movies from the 1940's and, so often, the whole romantic story line builds to one monumental kiss. Fairly often a wedding is implied in the near future. But you never see that kind of restraint or erotic power in films any more. I hate to sound as old as I'm getting, but these days movies have no class and no soul.

You want to know what I think is really, really romantic?

Last week a friend asked for prayers for her elderly dad. He'd been caring for his wife, who had Alzheimer's, for many years. It had been arduous, heartbreaking, lonely work. But now that the beautiful girl he married so long ago was nearing the end of her life, he was going to pieces at the thought of losing her. He just couldn't imagine letting her go.

Doesn't contemporary thought devalue an elderly, dependent spouse? Aren't we being told to ration her health care because she's going to cost society more and more as she contributes less and less? Isn't she more of a burden than anything else?

Yeah, well tell that kind of nonsense to this loving husband, for whom the romance never stopped. Not when things got difficult, not when they got much worse and stayed that way, not when he finally had to face losing her. He loved her. He loves her still. And he valued every moment of her life, even when she no longer recognized him.

That's romance.

A very interesting story came to my attention through my Facebook page. This man I'll call "Bill" shared about lifelong health issues that had caused him enormous suffering. When I expressed my sympathies, he wrote this, which I share with permission:

...when you've gone through some of the struggles I have with self esteem and physical insecurities due to a condition like mine, especially during the teen years and early twenties, you learn to appreciate many of the things others may take for granted. The soft gentle touch of your wife's hand resting on yours while you're driving, the warmth of her embrace when you get home on a cold winter's day, her cute little giggle over something silly you said...things like this that may seem mundane to some people, but even these little things have such special meaning for me and they are the greatest miracles in my life.

It's funny that the two most romantic stories I've heard in a long time involve so much suffering. But, then, look at the cross. Sacrifice is where true love begins. And, as with everything else in our lives, the key to everything is always, always love.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains an extraordinary and comprehensive section on human sexuality. It makes for great reading.

Remember, sexy is holy. May God bless your love for each other!