Born to an aristocratic family; orphaned by age six, he and his sister Mary were raised by their grandfather. He joined the 4th Hussar regiment and in 1880 his unit was sent to Setif, Algeria. He was discharged from the service for misconduct, and moved to Evian.
He spent 15 months learning Arabic and Hebrew and then travelled into Morocco. He received the Gold Medal of the French Geographic Society for his work. He lived very simply, sleeping on the floor, spending hours each day in prayer at home and in church. Pilgrim to the Holy Lands and spent much time in spiritual retreats.
In 1890 he joined the Trappist monks at the monastery of Notre Dames-des-Neiges; he moved to the monastery of Akbes, in Syria.
He made multiple pilgrimages through the Holy Lands on foot before returning to France to study for the priesthood. After ordination he moved to the Oran region near Morocco to establish a base and found an order to evangelize Morocco. he began a program of buying slaves in order to free them, he began evangelizing nomadic Tauregs in the area of south and central Sahara. He translated the Gospels into the language of the Tauregs.
He was killed when caught in the middle of combat between French forces and Arab insurrectionists.
As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood I could do nothing else but live for him, my religious vocation dates from the same moment as my faith: God is so great. There is such a difference between God and everything that is not.