Phil’s Camino Pilgrimage to Support Mission Tradition
Every year, more than 400,000 pilgrims from around the world walk the Camino de Santiago—the Way of St. James—in Spain, hoping to encounter God in a new way. For U.S. Marine veteran Philip Webb, this trek is also a chance to raise money for a very worthy cause: FSSP Mission Tradition.
Webb, a retired machinist, begins his Camino pilgrimage on October 3 and plans to finish by November 10, the 248th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“For me, the Camino walk is a fantastic opportunity to disconnect from the noise of the world,” said Webb. “It’s a chance to live each day by faith, not knowing what lies ahead on the trail. It’s also a way to draw attention to a very worthy cause. The priests of Mission Tradition do an excellent job of bringing the light of Christ to remote and often dangerous places. This draws me to their cause, and I’m happy to donate my efforts to them.”
Camino del Norté Presents New Challenges
The Camino is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in Galicia, where his relics are interred. From the ninth century onward, the Camino developed into a series of pilgrimage trails for medieval Christians. During the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Pope Alexander VI designated the Camino as one of the three major pilgrimages in Christendom, along with Jerusalem and Rome.
Webb will be walking the 514-mile Camino del Norté, or Northern Way—the second-longest Camino route. It begins in the coastal city of Irún, which borders France, and travels along the Cantabrian coast until it reaches Galicia, when it turns south to Santiago. The Camino del Norté combines breathtaking rural countryside, majestic mountains, and medieval coastal fishing villages.
Of the 438,589 pilgrims who arrived in Santiago in 2022 from all routes, only about 1 percent began their treks in Irún. Why? The Camino del Norté’s length and many mountainous sections present demanding obstacles. Cost is also a limiting factor because many cities along the route are tourist destinations that offer few pilgrim accommodations.
But Webb never backs down from a challenge. In 2022, he completed his first Camino pilgrimage on the Via de la Plata—the longest and most arduous route. The 621-mile trek took him 38 days. Walking the Camino del Norté will give Webb a new backdrop for his latest journey.
“Much of the landscape on the Camino del Norté is dramatically different,” Webb explained. “It passes through an incredibly green section of Spain, in stark contrast to southern Spain where the Via de la Plata begins. Also, in case readers are unaware, Spain is divided into autonomous zones with distinct cultures and languages. My journey this year will begin in the Basque Country.”
Webb has been preparing for his pilgrimage by completing 15-mile hikes at least twice per week and working out in his home gym. Even for a Marine, the journey will be rigorous.
“This route is shorter than the one I took last year, but it has far larger mountains,” said Webb. “I’ll be crossing the Pyrenees in the first week, followed by the lesser Cantabrian Mountains near the conclusion. I’ll also face more unpredictable weather this time. I’ve looked at terrain maps, but I won’t really know what I’m in for until I get out there. But I believe we all benefit from pushing our limits.”
The Real Journey Is a Spiritual One
As Webb travels, he’ll trust in the intercession of St. James and the protection and guidance of Our Lady. He carries and prays the Combat Rosary, a rugged sacramental that’s regaining popularity around the world. The Combat Rosary was commissioned by the U.S. government and issued by the U.S. military in 1916 for use in World War I. The front of the center medal on the original Combat Rosaries featured the image of the Blessed Mother, usually Our Lady of Sorrows. The back always depicted Jesus carrying His cross, representing the burdens that soldiers willingly bear. Many veterans have attributed their survival to these rosaries and the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“The design of today´s Combat Rosaries incorporates the Miraculous Medal, St. Benedict Medal, and Pardon Crucifix, which makes it a powerful spiritual weapon against evil forces,” Webb explained. “These Rosaries are rugged and strong, and any man can bear one proudly. The renowned Pontifical Swiss Guard, who are all devout Catholics, carry this Rosary.”
Although a pilgrimage is a time of prayer and often involves long miles of walking alone, Webb looks forward to the spiritual connections he’ll make with other pilgrims. He finished last year’s journey among a small, close-knit group of pilgrims from Sweden, Australia, and Galicia.
“People walk the Camino for all different reasons, and some are not even religious,” Webb remarked. “In meeting people, it soon becomes evident that most of us humans experience the same sorrows, heartaches, and joys, no matter where we’re from. When one realizes this, the Camino becomes a space to share all of these things. I’ve had people out there tell me painful things about their lives and then surprised them by telling them that I’ve been through the same challenges. These connections can be incredibly edifying and give all pilgrims more to pray about as the miles go by.”
How You Can Support Mission Tradition
Webb will derive significant spiritual benefit from his latest pilgrimage. He’s also hoping his efforts inspire traditional Catholics around the world to make contributions to Mission Tradition. Webb chose Mission Tradition as his beneficiary because he attends Mass at the FSSP chapel in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, and because he knows firsthand the importance of agriculture.
“My high school in the U.S. was small and rural and incorporated agriculture into the curriculum, so I understand the value of growing food,” Webb recalled. “Among its many good works, Mission Tradition teaches poor people agricultural skills in places like Colombia, where the drug culture is prevalent, and in Nigeria, which is overrun by militant Islamic Muhammadans. So Mission Tradition seems like a good fit for a Marine veteran.”
Webb hopes to raise at least $7,500 for Mission Tradition from his pilgrimage.
“I believe that’s a very modest goal,” he concluded. “That’s only $100 per English-speaking FSSP chapel. The hard-working priests of Mission Tradition could use much more than that. As I walk the Camino, I’ll be praying that many Catholics will be inspired to help Mission Tradition bring the fullness of Christ into the emptiness of the world. Please offer your support!”