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April 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Dan Burke, the former president of EWTN News, sat down with me this week to discuss his recent diagnosis and recovery from the COVID-19 virus. Although we discussed a wide range of issues, including liturgical abuses, what stood out to me from our conversation was the “spiritual darkness” he said he experienced while suffering from the virus in the hospital.

“I don't claim to be a mystic or any of that,” he told me, “and what I'm about to say could be audacious — and I don't want it to be — but if it's possible for a human being in any way to understand what Jesus suffered in the garden or what he suffered when he said, ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ that darkness for me was a sliver of a sliver of whatever that was for Jesus.”

Dan has had chronic asthma for many years. “I've had more surgeries than I can count. My body has never been my friend,” he said. He informed me that he told his son that if he got the coronavirus he was going to die, and that he was okay with that.

He also explained that nurses would come to check on him in the intensive care unit but only occasionally. He also said that he was offering up his sufferings for others and for institutions in the church, as he had done during previous ailments. But, he said, this time around was “totally new territory.”

“It was the most black spiritual experience I've ever had in my life. I had no sense of God's presence at all. I didn't despair and I didn't lose faith or hope. But I was despairing, in a way — I was weeping a lot. I was offering up the suffering.”

It was “pitch-black,” he continued, “like if you've ever camped out in places really far from the city, you when there's no moon, there's no moon out you. Even if you flash a good flashlight, you can only see it. It's sort of the darkness envelops the light at some point in the near distance. You know, it was like that. There was the darkness was impenetrable. And it was just a horrible kind of suffering.”

Dan is the chairman of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and just published a new book, entitled Spiritual Spiritual Warfare and Discernment of Spirits (Sophia Institute Press). It was released before he caught the coronavirus.

Dan told me that what struck him the most during his illness was the great need for “repentance of the laity” and for them to not receive Holy Communion in the hand but on their tongue while kneeling. “I believe that the highest order of demons are concerned with the disruption of worship, the proper worship of God,” he said. 

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.