As a method of uniting one in meditative prayer to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is “identical with that which was offered on the cross of Calvary”, the first and easiest method of hearing Mass that employs the Rosary is to pray the five sorrowful mysteries.
However, it should be noted that the practice of any devotion used as a method of hearing Mass must be properly utilized and applied.
This includes a studious preparation before hand to the degree proper to the individual. If one is properly disposed and knowledgeable, one should at least familiarize himself with the day’s Collect, Epistle (or Lesson) and the Gospel, and the life of the saint if a saint’s feast day is commemorated. It is a laudable practice to study and pray all the Propers of the day’s Mass beforehand, especially the Collect or Collects of the Day, and, time permitting, to consult a worthy spiritual manual such as Dom Guéranger’s The Liturgical Year. In addition, all those assisting at Mass should properly recollect themselves in the usual manner, by observing the Eucharistic fast if they are receiving Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist, an examination of conscience and by prayer and supplication.
Likewise, certain times of Mass should command the attention of those assisting, particularly those set apart by the ringing of the altar bells. At these times, one should set aside whatever devotion, including the Rosary, and focus on the action taking place at the altar.
*At the commencement of the Mass all should make the Sign of the Cross with the priest.
*All should know beforehand and/or pray along with the priest the Collect of the Day, and should respond, at the very least, with an interior "Amen".
*At the Gospel, all should stand and sign themselves on the forehead, the lips and the heart along with the priest as a demonstration of personal willingness to listen, believe and follow the teaching of Our Blessed Lord contained therein.
*At the time of the offertory, all should take a moment to bring to mind the intention for which the priest is offering the Mass, and to offer God the oblations of oneself and all that one possesses.
*When the altar bells ring marking the Sanctus, all should give praise to God by either praying the Sanctus or some other words of prayer that hail the coming of the Son of God Who is about to descend upon the altar. It is more laudable, in my estimation, to use the actual words of the Sanctus provided by Holy Mother Church, either in Latin or a suitable and approved translation, as it is the very selfsame words echoed by the angels in heaven before the throne of God (Is. 6. 3), and the people of Jerusalem as they hailed our Blessed Lord’s triumphal entry into the place of the Great Sacrifice.
*When the altar bells ring just before the consecration all should particularly focus in quite recollection and holy fear, and at the elevation of the Sacred Species, all should be kneeling and adoring the Redeemer Who has descended from heaven upon the altar. In our hearts, we should fall down in adoration, emulating the three kings who adored the Infant Christ, and the apostles on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration.
*At Communion time, if not receiving, one should make a spiritual Communion; if one is receiving, one ought to recollect himself and offer the usual prayers.
*Everyone should kneel for the final blessing, and treat the Last Gospel with same attention as the Gospel of the day. (It is a habit in some places to sing a recessional hymn while the priest recites the Last Gospel, but, in my opinion, there is no merit in such a practice.)
Bearing these points in mind, praying the five sorrowful mysteries directs both the mind and the heart toward the mystical realities taking place at Mass. By such a meditation, the layman uses all his faculties to bring himself to Calvary’s hill.
Care should be taken, though, not to consider this as a fulfilling an obligation to offer a daily Rosary. Because the Rosary is being used during the Mass it is not wholly a private devotion that fulfills an obligation one might have to offer a daily Rosary as the member of some confraternity or pious lay association. Likewise, it would be a pity for the lay faithful to forgo a family Rosary in lieu of using the Rosary as a method of hearing Mass. In fact, I think that would be a great abuse flowing from spiritual sloth. Only the sorrowful mysteries should prayed, and not the joyful or glorious, even though they are quite beautiful and edifying. The principle reason for using the Rosary as a method of hearing Mass is to unite one’s heart and mind with Our Blessed Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross.
This, however, isn’t the only method of hearing Mass that can employ the Rosary.
(Part IV: Using the Rosary in Conjunction with Other Methods of Hearing the Mass)