A certain woman used to bring altar breads to Gregory every Sunday morning, and one Sunday, when the time came for receiving communion and he held out the Body of the Lord to her, saying “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ benefit you unto life everlasting,” she laughed as if at a joke. He immediately drew back his hand from her mouth and laid the consecrated Host on the altar, and then, before the whole assembly, asked her why she had dared to laugh. Her answer: “Because you called this bread, which I made with my own hands, the Body of the Lord.” Then Gregory, faced with the woman’s lack of belief, prostrated himself in prayer, and when he rose, he found the particle of bread changed into flesh in the shape of a finger. Seeing this, the woman recovered her faith. Then he prayed again, saw the flesh return to the form of bread, and gave communion to the woman.
(The Golden Legend)
The following seven prayers are attributed to St. Gregory the Great and associated with the Eucharistic miracle detailed above. Though the prayers have fallen into disuse today, the faithful continued to use them during the late medieval period, when the Franciscans preached devotion to the human suffering of Christ. The text given below is my own translation from the Latin (Paradisus Animae , p. 540).
The Seven Prayers of St. Gregory
(I) O Lord Jesus, I adore you hanging on the Cross, bearing the thorny crown on your head. I beg you, that your Cross may free me from the Angel. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(II) O Lord Jesus, I adore you wounded on the Cross, having drunk vinegar and gall. I beg you, that your wounds may be the remedy of my soul. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(III) O Lord Jesus, I ask by that bitterness of your Passion, which you underwent in the hour of your death, especially at that time when your most holy soul departed from your blessed body, to have mercy on my soul in its departure from my body, and lead it into eternal life. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(IV) O Lord Jesus, I adore you placed in the tomb, embalmed with myrrh and spices. I beg you, that your death may be my life. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(V) O Lord Jesus, I adore you descending into hell and freeing your captives from that place. I beg you, that you may never allow me to enter there. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(VI) O Lord Jesus, I adore you rising from the dead, and ascending into heaven, and sitting at the right hand of the Father. I beg you, that I may merit to follow you there and to be presented to you. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
(VII) O Lord Jesus, good Shepherd, preserve the just, pardon sinners, have mercy on all the faithful, and be well-disposed to me, a wretched and unworthy sinner. Amen. Our Father. Hail Mary.
I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your Passion may be a strength for me, by which I may be fortified, protected, and defended. May your wounds be food and drink for me, by which I may be fed, inebriated, and delighted. May the sprinkling of your Blood be an ablution of all my sins. May your death be eternal glory for me. In these may refreshment, health, zeal, joy, delight, and desire of my body and soul be mine, now and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, place your Passion, Cross, and Death between your judgment and my soul, now and in the hour of my death.
Deign to grant grace and mercy to me, pardon to the living, rest to the dead, peace to your Church, and life and eternal glory to all sinners. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Image (illumination): Jean Poyer, Mass of St. Gregory. Photo: Pierpont Morgan Library. MS H.8.